2018 Watchword | Reghan Skerry

Looking Ahead to 2018

Personal, Photography, Writing

The last few years, I’ve chosen a watchword to take me into the new year, a small mantra to remind me of my goals, both big and small.

In 2017, my watchword was “focus.” I knew the year was going to be rough, and I knew that (for me) the biggest challenge would be dealing with the sheer distraction of it all. And… I kind of managed that. It was a struggle, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. I didn’t write as much as I’d hoped (the 2016 NaNo draft is finished, but it sort of stalled after that), and I only did one of the photo projects I’d planned (I don’t even remember what the other one was…). But I did finish that 365 project, and I’m genuinely happy with how it turned out. And one of the story ideas I’d been playing with turned into a draft that I still kind of love. Even if it’s not quite finished.

Now. 2018. Still going to be awful in general, but I’ve had time to process. Not ‘move on,’ but I’ve at least figured out how to function, even when the news cycle infuriates me.

This year, my watchword is “action.”

I know what my long-term goals are. They’ve never really changed; if anything, they’ve become more clear to me as time passes. But I haven’t really gone after them, because… fear, mostly. And perfectionism, which is the same thing. And, you know what? I’m done with that.

That’s the plan for this year: I’m going to stop wasting time. I’m going to write. (Starting with finishing the draft I started for NaNo last year. I’ve only got one act to go, I should be able to finish it by the end of the month.) I’m going to take photos. I’m going to find ways to put my art, both writing and photography, out into the world. I’m going to take the little personal changes that I’ve already started (exercise! embracing minimalism!) and follow through. (Also: I kind of want this to be the year that I finally master the art of winged eyeliner. That, or figure out how to wear bold lipstick without feeling awkward.)

I’m going to take my goals—all of them—and find ways to move toward them.

2017 Project365 #365 | Reghan Skerry

Project365: #358-365

Photography

I still don’t know what possessed me to try a 365 project in 2017. When I started, I was pretty sure it would turn out like the attempts I’d made before: three months in, I’d be taking the most boring snapshots in the world, simply to fulfil the obligation. I didn’t think that I’d make it through the year without getting bored or resentful, and I definitely didn’t think that the project would do as much for my photography in general as it did.

Were all my photos good? Of course not. I phoned in a bunch of them, even this last week. But I can see a marked difference between the photos I was taking in January, the ones I was taking in July, and the ones I’m taking now, and I’m really happy with how far I’ve come.

A big part of it, I’m sure, is just the fact that I was sharing the photos—the ones that I loved, and the ones that were, frankly, embarrassing. Getting some kind of feedback (whether it was full-on comments, or just a few likes) has done wonders for my confidence as a photographer, which in turn has pushed me to try a little bit harder with every photograph. (Or almost every photograph. Some days, I’m still lazy and uninspired.)

There’s a lot to be said for not creating art in a vacuum.

Now that this particular project is over, what’s next?

I’m going to keep taking a picture every day, and posting it to Instagram, but I’m not calling it an official 365 project. (I’ll keep posting the photos here, too, but I’m going to move to a monthly roundup, instead of weekly.)

The big problem I ran into this year was that the every-single-day aspect meant that sometimes I was taking pictures just to fulfil the obligation, and I wasn’t happy with the results. By the time November rolled around, I wanted something that was more of a creative challenge, but less of a chore.

In 2018, I’m going to give myself some leeway when I’m sick, or uninspired, or whatever. I’m still going to try for every day, but if I can manage at least five days a week, I’m going to call it a win. And I’m going to break the year down into smaller, more challenging projects, things that will push me either creatively or technically.

I don’t know what all of those projects are yet. I’ll probably limit myself to a single camera or lens for a month, and I’ll do a month of black-and-white, and I’ll find a few more things to do as the year goes on. (I’d also really like to work on my portraiture…. If you’re near Nova Scotia and might be interested, get in touch.)

I’m going to keep going. I’ve enjoyed this project too much to stop now.

Looking Ahead to 2017

Personal

I have mixed feelings going into the next year.

I mean, it’s going to be awful. We know that. (At least we’re prepared? As much as we can be, anyway.) I really don’t think any of us are going to get through the next few years entirely unscathed.

But I’m not entirely without hope. I still have moments of optimism. The feeling of motivation that hit me in November hasn’t gone away, even when I had to take the last couple of weeks off to focus on the holidays. And, while I’ve always had goals and plans, especially going into a new year, something feels different this time. Really, my long-term goals haven’t changed much, but they’re clearer to me now than they’ve ever been, and I’ve got a stronger sense of what I have to do to accomplish them.

And so, for 2017, my goal is to maintain that focus.

Obviously, there are actual, concrete things I want to accomplish this year. I want to maintain the writing habit I built in November, and continue to refine it into something that fits into my schedule. I want to finish the draft that I started during NaNoWriMo (it should only take a week or two), and develop some of the loose concepts that I’ve been playing with into proper story ideas. (I’m still slightly amazed that writing is a thing that I do. I really didn’t expect that to happen this time last year.) I have two different photo projects I’m starting, and I’ll be sharing those as the year goes on (though the tags on the photo below will give you a hint as to one of them). I am going to make a real effort to work on the craft of both writing and photography. And I’ve got a whole list of other things I want to do, both personal and creative.

But they’re all connected to those bigger, long-term goals.

Like I said: in general, 2017 is going to suck. Staying motivated and optimistic won’t be easy. Staying focussed on what happens next—what I want to happen next—and taking the steps to make sure it’s possible… that won’t be easy. But it’s necessary, and it feels realistic, in a way that it never quite has before.

Bring it on.

Snapshot #67 | 10 Things for 1 January 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. loving… “What will you tell your daughters about 2016?”, a TED Talk by Chinaka Hodge.
2. taking… a few days off. It was nice at the beginning, but now it’s starting to get to me.
3. baking… all the things. I made this fantastic cranberry ginger cake for Christmas, and these brownies are on the menu for tonight. (I also made these blondies for a potluck earlier in the season, and I’m still a little in love with them.)
4. eating… all the things.
5. feeling… sleepy. This might be related to #4. Or the cat waking me up at 3:30. Or the fact that I think I’m coming down with (another) cold.
6. getting… ready for 2017. I have so many plans. (That, and I’ve really been looking forward to seeing the end of 2016.) I can’t wait.
7. tidying… up my files. Woohoo.
8. wishing… that amazing people would stop dying, just when we need them the most.
9. overusing… italics. I know.
10. drinking… a lot of coffee. A lot.

Snapshot #66 | 10 Things for 18 December 2016

Personal

Currently…

1. listening… to DJ Riko’s 2016 Christmas mix—the latest addition to one of my favourite holiday traditions.
2. cleaning… up my Evernote notebooks. I have reasons. (Only partly related to the privacy policy changes that were announced and then—thankfully—amended. I was seriously looking into alternatives for about a day there, and I’m glad I don’t have to.)
3. thinking… of about four different story ideas. Writing begets writing. I hadn’t exactly forgotten that, but it’s nice to be reminded.
4. starting… my Christmas baking. How did I ever survive without a stand mixer? (Or a dishwasher?)
5. watching… Luke Cage. (It’s taken me a while to make room in my TV schedule.)
6. loving… the margherita pizza at Morris East. So good.
7. cursing… the cold. I miss autumn already.
8. finalizing… my plans for 2017.
9. making… gingerbread waffles. (Still using this fantastic recipe.)
10. accepting… the fact that my routine is going to fall apart starting tomorrow.

Snapshot #64 | 10 Things for 20 November 2016

Personal

Currently…

1. making… progress on my NaNoWriMo story. The first act is kind of a disaster (and will need to be rewritten from scratch), but it’s slowly starting to turn into the story that I imagined when I was outlining. (… Although. There are still issues, and while some of these scenes are nearly perfect, I’m probably still going to have to rewrite the entire thing from scratch. So.)
2. chipping… away at my weekly photo project, however slowly.
3. falling… behind on… just about everything else, to be honest. NaNo has taken over my life. Which is good, but I’m hoping to find some kind of balance again in December.
4. finalizing… my holiday baking plans.
5. craving… coffee.
6. listening… to a lot of Leonard Cohen. (sigh. Seriously, 2016?)
7. slipping… back into one (very minor) bad habit. I think I’ve needed the distraction, actually.
8. processing… the US election. Still. I think it’s going to take a while.
9. trying… to remember what else has been going on. Seriously, all I do lately is write.
10. thinking… about my plans for 2017 (and beyond). Despite everything, I’m feeling weirdly… I don’t know if “optimistic” is the right word. Let’s go for “motivated.”

Sketchbook #16

Productivity, Writing

Ok, so: July and August were kind of terrible, creatively. I’ve acknowledged that and moved past it. It happens occasionally—both due to my own issues, and things beyond my control—and I just have to deal with it.

I went into September with modest goals: I wanted to get back on track, and dig myself out of the rut that I’d been in all summer. I wanted to see if I could find ways to motivate myself, rather than relying on inspiration to just happen. I wanted to work on clearing my weekly photo backlog, and see if I could make some progress on the NaNoWriMo outline, but I didn’t set any specific targets—any movement would be good, as long as it was forward.

So how’d I do?

Not terrible? I mean, it’s a bit tricky to measure this sort of thing when I intentionally didn’t set any clear guidelines for myself.

I’ve started (slowly) working on the weekly photo project again, and chipping away at those missed prompts. I’m still really behind schedule (and, as I said the other day, it would be easier if I wasn’t adding to the list every week, but, well, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?), but I’ve been working on it, and I’ll have even more pictures ready in the next little while. I don’t quite have a good workflow with the new computer, yet—I’d like to make some changes from the way I handled things before, but I’m still working on what those changes actually are.

Still: progress.

Writing… is still going slowly. I’m finally hitting a daily word count that I’m happy with: not quite enough for NaNoWriMo, but perfectly acceptable when the deadline isn’t quite that ridiculous. That’s nice. I’ve only made a little progress on the NaNoWriMo outline, but I’m starting to build momentum again, and I’ve got a pretty good plan-of-attack to get the outline actually done. I’m starting to feel like I might be ready to go when November rolls around.

I have discovered that the new computer—more specifically, the increased screen size—really changes the way I write. I tend to write my first drafts in plain text (or Markdown), using a lightweight text editor; it’s easy, portable, and doesn’t lock me into any particular system. And on my old 13-inch MacBook Pro, it served as a pretty good distraction-free writing environment. But it’s just not working for me on the new screen; the window’s either too small, or it’s a huge, intimidating blank page with no real margins. I’m trying out a few alternatives. With luck, I’ll find something that clicks with the way I like to work.

Really, though, even though it’s not a lot of progress, I am feeling pretty good about both writing and photography right now. Better than I was feeling this time last month, at least.

Now. Drawing… I’m still just going through the motions, there. I’m trying not to worry about it too much—I’ve always intended it to be a hobby, and not another source of stress—but it’s still a bit draining. The trouble is, I feel like I’m still in the skill-building stage of things; there’s a lot of practice, but very little real creativity right now, which makes it less fun than it could be. (Especially, since, you know, it’s a hobby. It should be fun.) It might be time to switch things up again, go back to figure drawing for a while and see if that helps.

Which brings us to my plans for October.

Obviously, my NaNoWriMo outline is my priority. I have one month before I actually have to write this thing. I’m fully confident, now, that I can hit the target as far as word-count goes. So that’s good. And, while I’m nowhere near ready to start writing right now, I’m pretty sure I can get there in time. As long as I can stay focussed and do the work.

The good thing is, I do think I’ve finally figured out what motivates me, and how to harness that energy when I need it. Anxiety and perfectionism are still issues, but I’m starting to figure out how to work through them—maybe even (dare I say it?) channel that energy into motivation—rather than let them paralyze me. Between that and (finally!) getting back into the habit of working at my desk in the office rather than literally anywhere else in the apartment, I’m starting to get my schedule under control and keep myself from getting too distracted.

So I should be able to get the outline done in time.

That’s my priority, but I don’t want to lose my momentum with photography, either. I’ve got quite a few new photos waiting to be edited, both for the weekly project and otherwise, and I’ve got plans to tackle some more of the backlog. If I can get (mostly) caught up before November, it’ll make writing the novel a lot less stressful.

And, because I’m me, and because it’s starting to feel like the year is winding down, I’m starting to think ahead to 2017. I’m already planning next year’s photo project (taking into account the problems that arose this year and the things I’d like to accomplish), and thinking about the changes I’d like to make. As I said, I’ve begun making some changes to my daily schedule, and I’m hoping to fine-tune those changes so I can start 2017 with a routine that I like and that works for me. (I’ve also got a new monthly feature here on the blog that was originally going to launch early next year, but I don’t want to wait that long; it’ll debut later this week.)

In short, my plan for next month—and the rest of the year—is all about getting back to work. Not just getting back to where I was before the old computer decided to die on me, but using the changes and the things I’m figuring out about myself to actually do the work I’ve wanted to do all along.