Black and white photo of an open notebook with the year '2020' and word 'grit' written on the first page. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

2020 in Preview

Art + Craft, Personal, Photography, Writing

The year—the decade—isn’t even two weeks old and it’s already testing my optimism. I keep sitting down to write this post, and I just stare at the blinking cursor, trying to figure out what to say about my goals for the new year, trying to figure out how to say that I’m still hopeful. That despite everything, my goals for this year are more ambitious than they have been for the last few.

But maybe that makes sense. Everything’s terrible, so why not take some risks? This isn’t a year for ‘find a hobby’ or ‘build a sustainable writing routine.’ That was about building a foundation. This is a year to make some real, concrete changes. 

I’m not going to go into all of them here. Some are obvious and don’t need further explanation (finally get that photo thing off the ground, finish Violet Lane, keep querying), some are too personal, some just aren’t within the (current) scope of this blog. Some I’ll talk about later, but I just want to keep them to myself for now. 

But there are a few things I do want to publicly commit to:

Focus on improving my craft.

I said back in September that I felt l like I’ve hit a plateau when it comes to my skill, both as a writer and a photographer. That feeling hasn’t gone away.

Like I said then: it’s normal. And, really, I wouldn’t want to be satisfied creatively—I think an artist’s vision should always exceed their skill, at least a bit. It’s not that I think I’m a bad writer or photographer, I’m just not where I’d like to be, and it’s time to level up.

I’m not 100% sure about my game plan, here.

I know I want to work on building my technical skills, whether that means studying the writing books I’ve collected over the years, or working on specific photo projects, or taking classes, or something I haven’t thought of yet. 

I want to do more work—I want to take more photos and spend more time writing. I’ve done well, building a sustainable practice, but it’s time to expand on that. I need to be careful not to push too hard—burnout is always a real risk for me—but the pace I usually work at now doesn’t allow for much growth. 

And I want to build my creative confidence. I don’t (just) mean when it comes to sharing my work—I’m getting better at that, even though it’s still difficult. I want to be braver in the work that I create; I want to stop holding myself back from taking the photographs I want to take, or writing the stories I want to write. This is a process, and I don’t expect it to be a quick one, but it’s something I need to do.

So, yeah: not exactly a clear plan, but at least my goals are clear. I’ve got time to figure out how to get there.

Reevaluate my relationship with social media.

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while, and I’ve come to some conclusions:

  1. Instagram and Twitter are terrible distractions that make it harder to focus on the work I want to be doing.
  2. Facebook and Twitter are actively harming society and chipping away at democracy, and the people in charge embrace it because it’s lining their pockets. (Instagram itself isn’t as terrible on that front, but the ad revenue still goes to Facebook.)
  3. I’m sick of Facebook’s constant presence. I’m not even on Facebook, and I can’t get away from it. It’s creepy
  4. I miss blogs. I miss the old internet, back when it felt fun and creative and serendipitous. Back when it was still weird.
  5. Instagram is one of the things that has stalled my progress as a photographer. Yes, it’s helped in some ways, but it rewards sameness rather than creativity, and it’s hard not to play to that.

Any one of those is reason to jump ship—taken together, I’ve reached a point where it’s hard to justify my presence. At the same time, there’s part of me that feels like I need to be on those networks, for personal or professional reasons. I feel genuinely guilty when I don’t post to Instagram or Twitter for a few days, and I hate it.

So this year, I’m going to figure out a solution. I’m probably going to step back from the services that bother me most, or abandon them completely. I’ve already taken some steps in that direction, curating my feeds a bit, and I’ve already left Pinterest (they finally made it too difficult to avoid the cluttered home feed).

I’m definitely going to breathe some real life into this blog, rather than relying on those other services. (I might go back to the self-hosted version of WordPress, to get back a little control with that, but my account is paid up until the fall, so I’ve got time to think about it.) 


Mostly, though, my goals for 2020—writing and photographic and personal—are summed up in the watchword I’ve chosen: grit.

Very few of the things I want to do this year are going to be easy. And it’s going to be a difficult year, just in general. (I didn’t know how difficult when I started thinking about my plans, but… well.) I’m going to to be tempted to give up, or slack off, or set my sights lower.

“Grit” is what’s going to keep me going.

Snapshot #136 | 10 Things for 22 September 2019

Admin, Personal

Currently…

1. realizing… that I’ve been procrastinating on some important projects.
2. ordering… so. many. books. (I had loyalty points to redeem, and I spent them well.)
3. having… the worst week. Seriously. Between the 9th and the 13th, everything that could go wrong did.
4. wishing… I knew how Lucy would react to another cat. (I met an adoptable pair of kittens that I’m absolutely smitten with, but I can’t really consider it with that uncertainty.)
5. regrouping… and refocusing. (Which is somehow not connected to #1.)
6. turning… off likes on posts and comments. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and it’s time. (I’m extending the comment window a bit to make up for it, but aside from that the comment policy isn’t changing. And, yes, likes still appear in the WordPress reader—I’d turn them off there too, if I could—but this way it doesn’t benefit the spammers who abuse the feature.)
7. trying… to catch up with my Instagram backlog.
8. solving… the email problem that was giving me stress dreams. (Part of why I had such an awful week… but at least it’s fixed now.)
9. getting… excited for autumn. I’m counting the days ’til I can break out the fingerless gloves and black tights. It’s almost cold enough, but not quite.
10. starting… to suspect I’m finally on the right track with Violet Lane.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 5 Check-In

Productivity

It’s been a while since I checked in on this little project of mine (here’s the explanation for my absence, if you missed it), but I’m happy to say that it’s only the check-ins that I’ve missed. I haven’t been neglecting the reboot itself, and I’m actually kind of impressed with the progress I’ve made in the past few weeks, despite everything.

Let’s get to the individual goals, shall we?

A quick update to prove I haven’t abandoned you.

Admin

Things have been… scattered around here for the last couple of weeks, I know. Sorry about that. I’ve been battling a cold, and on a bit of a mini-vacation, but that’s not an excuse, just an explanation.

I’m going to try to get back on track in the next few days. The regular posts that I missed (September’s sketchbook, the last two reboot updates) aren’t going to happen; I’ll just roll them into the next ones. I’m hoping to have my first NaNo prep update for you this weekend (no later than Monday, promise), and the next issue of the newsletter will go out on the 7th, as planned.

Inspired | May 2018

Links

Every month, I share the articles, videos, and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in May.

My friend Bethany just launched her site! Go take a look—it’s fantastic, and full of advice for us busy writers.

Are ebooks dying or thriving? The answer is yes by Thu-Huong Ha: “Nobody—industry experts, authors, publishers—can gauge the true size of the self-publishing market. So no one can say for sure what’s going on in the larger book industry.”

It’s Okay to Give Up on Mediocre Books Because We’re All Going to Die by Janet Frishberg: “One, I realized literally NO ONE cares if I give up on a book except me. (And maybe the author, if I told them, which I wouldn’t do because…no.) Two, I realized that I’m going to die.”

The Cartoonists of Color Database and The Queer Cartoonists Database, spotlighting marginalized comics creators.

Why I’m Done With Guest Posting by Margo Aaron: “We’re tacitly participating in a system that’s designed to make readers reactive, angry, and thoughtless.”

The Myth of Authenticity Is Killing Tex-Mex by Meghan McCarron

Waves of cheesy, spicy, frankly pleasurable Texas-Mexican dishes, with many regional variations, continued to spiral outward in the 20th century and into the 21st: sizzling fajitas, cheese enchiladas, frozen margaritas, queso, breakfast tacos, Frito pie, barbacoa, puffy tacos. Along with the crispy tacos and burritos of Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex became one of America’s most beloved and important regional cuisines, even if most Americans didn’t realize that was what they were eating.

[SPOILERS!] Heads I Win, Tails YOU DIE: Thanos’ Plan is Even Worse Than You Know by Michael Carlisle

Do You Know Where Your Healing Crystals Come From? by Emily Atkin: “If shop owners can’t disclose their sourcing without risking business, how can consumers know that their healing crystals didn’t contribute to human trauma or environmental destruction?”

The New Passport-Poor by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian: “Passports, in other words, were invented not to let us roam freely, but to keep us in place—and in check. They represent the borders and boundaries countries draw around themselves, and the lines they draw around people, too.”

• I love this video so much: ‘Dynamite’ by Tami Neilson. (Someone linked to this on Twitter earlier in the month, but I can’t remember who. If it was you: thanks! You’re awesome!)

What’s the most interesting thing you saw online this month?

Sketchbook #27

Photography, Writing

Well. I did say that September was going to be a busy month, didn’t I?

First off: I’ve made up my mind on my NaNoWriMo project. I’m going to stick with my original plan (a new story that I’m really excited about), and leave the rewrite until later.

I’m still really anxious to get to that rewrite, but I’m also thinking about the writing routine I ultimately want to build. Ideally, I want to have three projects in various stages of development at any given time: one in the planning stages, one actually being written, and one in edits. My current plan is to spend the next month-and-a-bit getting the outline for the NaNo story finished, and then, during November, start working out the details of the rewrite. (I do have another potential story that I might try to start outlining. We’ll see.)

I might end up regretting these plans when NaNo actually rolls around, but for now, this feels right.

Related to that, this month I’ve been refining my daily freewriting, mostly trying to get a feel for the characters. I haven’t quite managed to do as much planning/outlining work as I’d hoped, but I’m not panicking. (Yet. Ask me in a month. Or tomorrow.)

As for photography… I’m still, always, a little bit behind on the 365 project. But I’m almost caught up (again), and I’m not feeling too horrible about it. I’m happy with the photos I’ve been taking, which is more important than staying 100% on top of the project.

(I’ll just keep telling myself that.)

And I’m just about finished editing all the photos I took in August, which is a relief. I’ve been dragging my feet, and I just want to get it done.

Finally: the site redesign. I think I’ve settled on something that I like, and I’m pretty sure I’ve sorted out all of the little issues I was having. There are still a few things I want to do, but in general, I think I’m done.

I realize that I haven’t explained why I needed to move the site, especially since I’d been with my previous host for… fourteen years? Something like that. The short version is: the previous web hosting company had been going downhill for years: support was slow and not-particularly-helpful, there was random downtime that never got explained, and it was just generally… not the company I’d signed on with. (Literally. They’d been bought out by another company.) Still, I might have been able to deal with that for another year or two, because it was a really good deal, better than most of the alternatives…. And then I got this year’s invoice, and the price was 72% higher than it was last year. Don’t get me wrong—it was still a good deal, and that increase was bringing me in line with the current pricing structure. The price itself wasn’t unreasonable. But that’s a significant jump, and there had been no advance warning. In the end, I couldn’t justify staying with a company that would treat long-term customers that way.

And the move seemed like as good an excuse as any to tackle a redesign. I’m really happy with the way things look (I’ll be happier when I’ve actually finished, I’m sure), and the new setup feels a little more versatile going into the future.

So, yeah: September was a busy month. October’s going to be even more intense.

My priority, of course, is NaNo prep. I’m already having days where I really don’t feel ready. I keep telling myself that I’ve got plenty of time, but… I want to go into November with a solid plan. (Last year wasn’t terrible, but looking back, I wish I’d been more prepared. The rewrite process would be easier. I want to do better this year.)

Aside from that, it’s all maintenance: I want to try to stay on top of the 365 project, and ideally keep moving forward with my photography in general. (I do have specific plans, which keep getting set aside while I focus on other things, but the new site design—the increased emphasis on photography, and just the newness of everything—has me feeling inspired again.)

So, yeah: I’ve got another busy month, but… I think I can deal with it. At least I’m not looking at a sudden website migration.

Snapshot #80 | 10 Things for 2 July 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. finding… some inexpensive pens that might meet my admittedly-specific criteria.
2. falling… behind on my 365 photo project. 😬 I’m trying to catch up (promise!). (It was around this time last year that my weekly photo project fell apart, wasn’t it? Apparently, I just lose all photographic motivation in the summer. Which seems weird.)
3. hoping… that the balcony plants survive. Building maintenance means I haven’t been able to plant them properly yet… it’s so annoying.
4. putting… my plans in place for the next few months, and generally taking some time to get myself back on track.
5. watching… all the shows that I missed during the actual TV season.
6. wishing… that this weekend was a little better, weather-wise. I’d hoped to get out for some of the Canada Day stuff, but the idea of standing around in the rain/drizzle/etc. doesn’t really appeal.
7. thinking… that I really need to start doing something real with this blog again, don’t I?
8. reevaluating… my various creative projects. (I suppose this is technically part of #4. I’ve been thinking about my work process and the work itself. There are changes on the way.)
9. wondering… why one particular ice cream recipe doesn’t seem to work for me. (I’ve used other—nearly identical—recipes from the same source with no trouble, but I’ve tried this one twice and it just doesn’t work. Still tastes good, at least.)
10. unsubscribing… from the email newsletters and blog feeds that don’t inspire me.

Looking Ahead: Goals & Plans for 2015

Personal, Photography, Writing

1 January 2015

The start of a new year is always weird for me. I love the idea of a fresh start, and I love the process of figuring out new goals. But I always manage to freak myself out about the whole thing, too. (I’ve already had this year’s panic attack, so at least that’s out of the way.)

After taking a year off from the whole major-goal-setting thing (sort of), I’m ready to get back to it.

I have plans for 2015.

And, in the interest of making myself accountable, I’m sharing them with you. These aren’t my only plans for the year (I’ve got a few others that aren’t significant enough to mention here), and most of the ones I am sharing cover a lot of ground (I have several specific, measurable goals for the photography and web-related stuff), but these are the ones that really matter.

In 2015, I will…

Find a New Workout
For someone who loathes most sports, and hates the concept of exercising, I’m actually pretty good about working out. To the point that I get a little anxious when I can’t stick to my schedule. (This is actually a chicken-and-egg thing, since one reason I work out in the first place is that it does wonders for my anxiety in general.) But the several months, I’ve been getting so bored with my current routine. I’ve thought about running, and I might try that (I’ve got a measured 5K route right outside my door), but I know that starting when the weather is so miserable is a mistake. I need to find something new and interesting ASAP.

Focus on Photography (Pun Not Intended, But Unavoidable)
With so much other stuff going on in 2014, I wasn’t able to give photography the attention I wanted to. But I have a very specific plan in place to get back on track in 2015. If you’re local to me (so, in the Canadian Maritime provinces), watch this space in the first six months of the year… I’m going to be making some announcements that might be relevant to your interests. If you’re not local to me… your announcements will be coming in the second half of the year.

Do Something With the Office
Ok, so. The entire apartment is still a work-in-progress. But the office is the only place where progress isn’t actually being made. Since the move, it’s become a catch-all, and it is not a place I can actually get any work done. This needs to change. I need to figure out what I want the office to feel like (that’s part of the problem—I have clear ideas for the rest of the apartment, but the office is a puzzle), and set about turning it into a place where I want to spend time.

Get my Digital Life in Order
I’m actually not unhappy with what I’ve been doing here on the blog. (And it’s the first year I’ve been able to say that, about any website, so… progress!) But while it’s a good start—there’s much more I want to do. I’m going to work on increasing post frequency, and I’m probably going to be looking at a bit of a redesign to better incorporate some of the changes I want to make. I also want to start paying attention to some of the social media accounts that I tend to neglect. (*cough*Twitter*cough*Instagram*cough*)

Read a Novel. In French.
For about a year and a half now, I’ve been actively trying to improve my French. And while I’m still a long way from being anything close to fluent, I’m a lot more comfortable with it than I was before (much more comfortable than I was when I was taking it in school). By the end of the year, I want to try to get through an entire novel. Probably a fairly short YA novel, and definitely with a dictionary at hand, but that’s the plan.

MAYBE Think About Writing That Thing
I haven’t written any fiction since early in 2014. And that’s a good thing—I was feeling overwhelmed, and obsessive, and perfectionism was kicking my ass. And I don’t want to go back to that. But, at the same time, there’s a story that keeps nudging me, waiting to be written. If I can figure out a way to work on it, and not drive myself crazy, I might try to do something with it. But it’s not a priority.

2014-02-01

Past and Future

Personal

Sometimes you need to start fresh.

Everyone gets that feeling at the start of a new year, I know. We think about the year that’s gone by, everything that’s changed, everything that hasn’t, all the things we accomplished, or didn’t. We make resolutions or set goals; sometimes they fizzle out two weeks into January, and sometimes we manage to see them through.

2013 wasn’t my best year. There was nothing specifically terrible about it, and it was far from being my worst year (2008 still holds that particular title), but it wasn’t great: creative projects that fizzled, drama that arose from (quite literally) out of nowhere, mysterious allergic reactions, seemingly-insurmountable roadblocks standing in the way of my goals. Even with the fantastic things that happened—and there were some truly fantastic things—when 2013 ended, I was adrift. My usual year-end review turned into a reevaluation, not just of 2013, but of everything, and it’s still going on.

That’s what this is.

I started blogging more than ten years ago. In that time, my enthusiasm for the medium, and my ideas for what I wanted to accomplish with it, have changed too many times to count. And one thing that’s become clear in the last couple of months, as I think about things, is that this is one of the areas I needed to change. The blog I’d been writing for so long was not what I wanted to be doing. I felt disconnected from everything about it: the subjects I was writing about, the way I was writing about them, even the name of the site. It all felt like a box I didn’t fit into anymore.

So I’m starting something new.

I’m not sure what it is yet. I have hints of a plan, something like a schedule, but I’m leaving room for it to evolve. It’s a place to reevaluate. It’s a place to play with ideas. It’s a catalogue of my obsessions, whatever they might be at the moment.

Welcome.

Photo by Reghan Skerry