Snapshot #128 | 10 Things for 2 June 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. getting… back to work.
2. talking… myself out of dying my hair pink. Or teal. Or any colour other than blonde. I miss real colour desperately but I know I can’t be bothered to maintain it.
3. planning… the next draft of Violet Lane. I’m ready to start writing on Monday.
4. experimenting… with the whole bullet journal thing again. Turns out the setup I was using didn’t work as well as I thought.
5. trying… Beyond Meat burgers. I was pleasantly surprised—not the best burger I’ve ever had, but perfectly good for something store-bought, and far better than any other veggie burger I’ve had. I’ll have them again. (That said, I do want to finally try making my own veggie burgers this summer.)
6. catching… up on my podcast backlog! Completely! As of right now, there is no backlog. Which means I’m tempted to go looking for something new, to start the cycle all over again.
7. making… plans for the site redesign. Now I just need to pick a day to tear everything down and rebuild.
8. meeting… the new ravens! Over the past few years, I’ve managed to become friendly acquaintances with the local pair; this year I got to see their fledglings! (Which, yes, meant I was standing in the middle of a public path talking to four ravens like they understand English. But four ravens! 😍)
9. starting… to build my DVD/Blu-Ray collection again. I got out of the habit, but as streaming services multiply, it makes more sense to me to buy anything I want to see more than once. Now I need to figure out how to store these things.
10. refining… my goals and updating my inspiration board.

Vintage SLR cameras in my office by Reghan Skerry

The 2018 Reboot | Finale

Productivity

Technically speaking September was only four months ago.

But 2018 has been the longest year ever, and it feels like it was at least two years ago that I decided I needed to make some changes.

Back in August, every project I was working on had either stalled or was moving too slowly to see any real progress. My motivation had plummeted. I was in a rut, and I needed to get myself out of that rut, and I needed to figure out how to avoid falling into it again. And so in September, I came up with a short list of things I wanted to do by the end of the year. They weren’t huge goals—and they definitely weren’t dramatic—but it was about building a system that could support my bigger goals going into the future.

We’re fast approaching the end of the year, so it’s time to look back at how (and whether) my reboot has worked, and where I’m going from here.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 10 Check-In

Productivity

I suppose it was inevitable, and I’m not at all surprised it’s happening now, when the days are getting noticeably colder and shorter, and it feels like winter—and the end of the year—is just around the corner.

The doubts are starting to creep in.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m on the right track with this whole reboot. Not in general (it really is necessary), but in the specifics: whether the systems and habits I’m building are the right ones, whether I’m going to be able to sustain them long-term, whether I’m going in the right direction.

Like I said: I should have expected it, and I’m not surprised it’s happening. I’ve had a really good couple of weeks, and I really do feel like I’m building a good foundation for myself, and that’s always the stage when I start to question everything. When a story is flowing perfectly, I start to worry that I’m missing something important. When I’m proud of the photos I’m taking, I suddenly can’t bring myself to pick up a camera.

It’s a pattern. Not one I’m happy with, but one that I recognize in myself. And maybe (maybe) one that this reboot is going to help me work around going forward.

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?

The 2018 Reboot | Week 2 Check-In

Productivity

It’s time to check in on the progress I’ve been making with my work/life reboot.

In general, it hasn’t been a bad week… even if I’ve had a few days in a row that have felt like I completely stalled on all the progress I’d been making. Really, that’s why these regular updates are helpful for me: they make me sit down and think about each of my individual goals, and honestly assess how I’ve been doing. It’s so easy to let a few bad days discourage me (or to get complacent after a few particularly good days), but when I look at the week as a whole… it’s good. I like the progress I’m seeing.

Mostly.

Now. About those individual goals….


Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
I’m still doing well with this one—I’m actually doing better with this one than I was last week. (I had to finish a couple of the mediocre books I was reading when I made up my mind to do this. They were just good enough that I didn’t want to drop them in the middle of the story. But they’re done now, and I’m on to the genuinely good stuff.)

I still haven’t seen a real improvement in the work itself, but again: right now, I’m outlining one project and waiting for notes on another, so I’m not doing the kind of work where I’d see an improvement. But I do like the way I’ve been thinking about my work lately (there’s gonna be a doozy of a blog post coming up at some point in the near future, and if you’re not subscribed to my newsletter yet, it might be a good time to do so. Just saying), and that’s something.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I’m still in the early experimental stage with this. I’ve been trying a few different time-tracking methods (to figure out how I’m using my time now), and reading up on circadian and ultradian rhythms (because why not?).

But the real progress has been due to the weather. As the humidity eases up, I’m slowly reviving my workout and running routines, and that does a lot for my morning routine in general. Maybe it’s a bit counterintuitive—the exercise cuts into my most productive time, sometimes significantly—but I really do find it easier to find my creative flow on the mornings when I’ve worked out or gone for a run.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
Still haven’t done anything with this. I’m going to make this my priority for the next week.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
The bullet journal experiment seems to be going ok. I’m keeping things very minimal for now: no complex spreads or trackers, and I’m only adding features as I decide I need them. It means the whole thing’s a bit of a mess for now, but since my goal is to figure out what I actually want in a planner, it’s working for me.

We’ll see if it keeps working in the longer term.

Finish the work on the office.
I’ve been slacking off on my decluttering this week. Just a little, but I do notice the difference.

The problem is that decluttering is boring. It’s going through papers and magazines to make sure there’s nothing I want to keep (there’s almost never anything I want to keep), and until I’m done with this stage of things, I can’t really move forward. Still. It needs to be done, and I’m going to get back to it over the next week.

The 2018 Reboot

Productivity

It’s been a long, hot summer, and in the past few months I have fallen out of every good habit I’d managed to establish in the first half of the year.

I haven’t been taking photos, or at least not many. One of my big photography goals for the year—one that I’d hoped to achieve in June—has stalled.

I haven’t been running as much as I’d like, or even managing my usual workout routines. (When the humidity pushes the temperature near 30°C at six-thirty in the morning, I absolutely refuse.)

I’ve been working on the Violet Lane outline, but in fits and starts. When I actually work on it, it’s going well, but it takes an awful lot of motivation to get started.

I’ve been spending more money than I’m really comfortable with. Everything I’ve been buying has been necessary (or if it’s not strictly necessary, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for long enough that I don’t feel guilty about buying it), but it all takes up space and my plans for decluttering have kind of stalled.

I haven’t been watching many movies. I’ve been reading mediocre books. I’ve been falling into internet black holes. My podcast backlog is growing again. Intellectually, it feels like I’ve been consuming nothing but junk food for three months.

(I’ve also been eating quite a bit of junk food.)

Basically: I’ve been in a rut. (I might’ve mentioned this already?)

But it’s September, and September always feels like a fresh start. The way the air feels, the way the light falls, the sudden urge to buy a new backpack (I do not need another bag) (or another notebook) (really. I mean it)… the back-to-school feeling has never gone away.

This year, I’m going to take advantage of it.

I don’t mean that I’m going to suddenly throw myself into everything I just mentioned, trying to fix them all at once. (Though, let’s be honest: that would be a closer analogue to the whole back-to-school thing.) I know that won’t work, at least not for long. But I’m going to use this energy—and the fact that we’re not really that far away from the end of the year—and spend the next few months figuring out how to keep from falling into this rut again, and building systems that can support the work—creative and otherwise—I want to be doing.

That’s kind of vague. I do have specific goals in mind.

Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
I’m listing this first because it’s easiest, and it’s something I’ve done before. It’s the only one that I can start doing (almost) immediately, with no preparation.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I’ve never been great at this. I’ve actually always been really bad at this, and what little progress I’d made fell apart this summer, both because of the heat (I had to give up some of the routines that kept me on track and my motivation dropped to zero) and because the time-tracking app I’d been using stopped syncing and I haven’t found a good replacement. I honestly feel like this is the thing that holds me back the most, and if I can figure it out, a lot of other things will start to fall into place.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
Basically, I need to figure out how to take a concept from idea to finished product in a consistent way, so I don’t get hung up on trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. Ideally, this would also include the idea generation stage of things, since I also have a tendency to drag my heels when it comes to choosing something new to work on. This is more of an issue with photography and blogging than writing fiction (I’ve already started putting together a system for that) but they all need work.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
I’ve always been a little bit in love with planners and to-do lists, ever since the day they handed out our spiral-bound handbooks/planners in junior high. I bought my first Day Timer when I was sixteen (I still have it, and I know exactly which box it’s in). I’ve used PDAs and iOS devices for more than fifteen years(!!). I’ve experimented with hipster PDAs and bullet journals and any number of pre-designed planners. And I’m still looking for something that does everything I need or want it to do. I still don’t know what that is, and hopefully I’ll be able to figure it out over the next few months.

Finish the work on the office.
I love this space. Before I got so far off-track, I could see a real improvement in my motivation and energy, just from spending time in this room. But the current stage is… not great. It feels cramped and cluttered. I want to get back to work on the improvements, and I want to be able to give you a tour by the end of the year.

There we have it: my goals for the rest of the year. Not including things like NaNoWriMo or other specific projects. It’s not terrifying at all, seeing it all written down like that. Really.

In my part of the world, the first day of school is either today (for university students) or tomorrow (for everyone else). So today is as good a time as any to start. I’m going to check in here every week. I’m not quite sure what form those check-ins will take, or when exactly I’ll do them, but I will keep you posted.

Ok? Ok. Let’s go.

Sketchbook #28

Writing

It turns out that getting three colds in the span of a month—and dropping Thanksgiving in the middle of that—doesn’t exactly do wonders for my creativity or productivity.

Who knew?

So… yeah. October wasn’t a fantastic month.

Really, I’m fine with it. It wasn’t great, but in general, I’m happy with what I have been getting done under the circumstances.

Of course, my highest priority this month has been writing—or, rather, outlining. NaNoWriMo starts in two days (!!!), and… I’m ready. My outline might not be as complete as I’d hoped it’d be (it’s definitely not as complete as I’d hoped it’d be), but it’s solid. I’ve got a good grasp of my characters, and my scene breakdown is done, and my worldbuilding is as good as it needs to be right now.

As for photography: I’m back on schedule with my Project 365 photos! I really don’t know how I did it, or how I’ve stayed on top of things, but I’m back on track, and I intend to stay there for the rest of the year.

It’s only two months. I can do that.

Aside from that project, I haven’t been able to take very many photos this month. The inspiration and motivation just haven’t been there, and, let’s be honest: one of my 365 photos was literally a blank wall. (Well. The corner where two blank walls meet, because I had to include some kind of visual interest.)

… and that’s about it. That’s all the creative work I’ve done this month.

That part annoys me. I mean, I can give myself a pass for this month. I had valid reasons for not doing much in October. But in general, I haven’t been happy with my creative output lately: I haven’t done any sewing in months (my half-finished bag is hanging in the closet, waiting for troubleshooting), I haven’t drawn anything in ages, and aside from my NaNo prep and a bit of freewriting, I haven’t been spending nearly as much time writing as I’d like to be.

We’re also getting close enough to the end of the year that I’ve started thinking ahead to 2018… and evaluating what I’ve done in 2017.

I know that my goalsetting/productivity habits aren’t cutting it right now. I know that the bullet journal system—as much as I like it in theory—doesn’t quite work for me in practice. I’ve started experimenting with some modifications that I hope will work for me (or at least lead me in the right direction), but I’m still trying to figure out what I actually need, let alone how to get there.

Maybe November isn’t the time to be thinking about this, but maybe it is. One of my NaNo goals is to firmly establish a creative habit that genuinely works for me, and that I won’t abandon as soon as the draft is finished. And, like I said: there’s only two months left in the year. I’d like to get myself back on track in time for the new year.

So. That’s the plan for November: make it through NaNo, ideally with a nearly-finished draft. (I’m still not 100% certain how long my story is going to be, but I know that it’s more than 50,000 words.) Try to do it in a way that doesn’t throw everything else into disarray, and that I can sustain through the holidays, and into the new year. (While I’m at it: reread last year’s story and start outlining the rewrite.) Continue to stay on top of the 365 project, and try to take pictures that aren’t just for that particular thing.

In general, just find my focus, and figure out how to do the work I want to be doing.

Snapshot #88 | 10 Things for 22 October 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. loving… Barbara Kean’s hair on the current season of Gotham. (In the first season, I kept getting distracted by architecture. This season, it’s her hair.)
2. looking… at new productivity systems. (Always.) As much as I love the bullet journal concept, I have to admit that it doesn’t quite work for me as well as digital, and I haven’t found a workflow that clicks for me. I’d like to experiment a little bit, and maybe come up with something that does work in time for the new year. (Plus, the last few weeks have been a mess, and I need to get some order into my days again.)
3. making… friends with kittens. It’s a compulsion.
4. enduring… another cold. This is getting annoying.
5. starting… to narrow down my recipe ideas for the holiday baking marathon. Sort of.
6. staying… on top of my Project 365 photos! Even with this stupid cold!
7. daydreaming… about ditching all my NaNoWriMo plans and writing horror instead. I’m not going to—I still love my story, and I don’t have time to plan something new—but I’m a little bit tempted.
8. hoping… that I won’t have to cancel plans again this week. (Stupid colds.)
9. thinking… about switching back to Moleskines as my notebook of choice. I love the Leuchtturm1917 paper and general organization, but the way the spine cracks makes me sad; Moleskines seem to be more durable. I’ve already got a Leuchtturm1917 waiting in the wings, but after that… I might go back. (And, yes, I spend far too much time thinking about notebooks.)
10. exploring… the new Ikea, and counting the days until my bookshelves are back in stock.

Snapshot #58 | 10 Things for 28 August 2016

Personal

Currently…

1. getting… used to the new computer. ♥ ♥ ♥
2. clearing… the DVR backlog. Finally.
3. loving… that the mornings are starting to feel a little cooler. I’m starting to daydream about autumn.
4. making… plans for the office. The new computer has started a bit of a chain reaction, and I’m freshly inspired to turn this space into a place I like to work.
5. looking… for the perfect desktop wallpaper. I don’t know if I’m just pickier than I used to be, but I’m not finding anything I like. At all. Anywhere.
6. trying… to stay motivated. It hasn’t been easy lately.
7. enduring… construction right outside the window.
8. falling… down the bullet journal rabbit hole. I think that my own version (when I settle on it…I’m still in the experimentation stage of things) will be heavily modified—I still prefer keeping my calendar and day-to-day to-do list digital—but I’m a little bit in love. (Seriously: search Pinterest or Instagram. If you’re a stationery geek like me, it’s a dream.)
9. hoping… to get back to real work soon.
10. wondering… why the baristas keep getting my order wrong lately. It’s not complicated. 😦