Snapshot #112 | 10 Things for 21 October 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. wishing… the cat didn’t like the comfy reading chair I got for the office quite so much. I seriously never get to use it.
2. wondering… what happened to my nice fall weather. I was not ready for snow.
3. realizing… that it’s been years since I made an apple pie. Years. That’s ridiculous, and I have to do something about it.
4. feeling… like I’m close to a breakthrough.
5. trying… to ease back into Twitter.
6. looking… for a good 350mL travel coffee cup. (This is one of those areas where I’m weirdly picky.)
7. realizing… that I’ve got a lot of things I want to do in the next few weeks, and it’s kind of freaking me out.
8. finding… my perfect shirtdress. (In related news, I’m going to start wearing dresses casually again. Really.)
9. loving… the new season of Doctor Who. So much.
10. drinking… all the coffee. 🖤

Sketchbook #36

Photography, Productivity, Writing

Most months, I take this post as an opportunity to reflect on the creative goals I’d set, and decide what I want to try to do in the coming month. Sometimes, taking that time to reflect leads me in a direction that doesn’t really fit into the standard format I’ve established for these ‘sketchbooks.’

Which is a roundabout way of saying this might be long, and it might ramble a bit. I’m trying to figure out some stuff, here, and if this isn’t the best way for me to do it, at least it’s been effective in the past.

Ok? Let’s go.

The way I’ve been managing my creative life—the things I’m working on, my creative energy, my time—isn’t working.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy with the things I’ve been doing lately. I love the stories I’ve been working on and the pictures I’ve been taking. This isn’t the usual feeling of ugh, I hate EVERYTHING that comes over me every so often, or the low point in my usual three-month cycle. Some of it can (probably) be attributed to the heat this summer—I haven’t had the motivation or attention span to do much work. Some of it is a general anxiety, and I know exactly what’s triggering that. (More on that in a minute, because it’s relevant.) But this goes deeper than that. It’s a restlessness and general dissatisfaction with my current processes, rather than with the work.

For the last few years, I’ve been thinking about writing and photography in terms of “projects:” concrete, measurable goals, whether it’s NaNoWriMo or a specific manuscript, or 365 photos. For a while, that was exactly what I needed—something to work toward, with some degree of accountability.

And that’s great.

Until this month, when all of those projects managed to hit stopping points at roughly the same time. I finished the 100 Days of Black & White photography project. I sent The Black Sun to my beta readers. I launched my newsletter.

… and then I wondered what the hell comes next.

There are things I could be working on: the Violet Lane outline. Various updates I want to make to the website. The big photo project that I keep hinting at and that I swore I’d be ready to announce this month (and which, by the way, I am not ready to announce this month). I’m not working on any of them. (Or not much. I have been picking away at the Violet Lane outline, and I’m really starting to like that again, but it’s going slowly.)

And, like I said: part of it comes down to anxiety. As soon as I sent The Black Sun to the last of my beta readers, I was instantly aware of all the flaws in the manuscript. (But I’m being good about that, at least. I know where this uncertainty is coming from, and I know that I can deal with it. I won’t look at the file, let alone make any changes, while it’s in beta. I’ve gotten some initial response, of the don’t worry, it doesn’t suck! variety, so that’s nice.) Plus I’ve been doing that thing I do with Instagram, where I feel guilty about not having anything to post, so I don’t log in at all, and then I feel guilty about that.

On top of that, the progress I’ve been making on the office revamp has been its own source of stress. As much as I love what this space is becoming, it’s a mess right now. The closet is a disaster area, I’ve still got one ugly old bookcase that I can’t throw out until I’ve found places for all the odds and ends that I’m still storing there. The cat has officially claimed my new comfy reading chair, even though she’s got a bed in the room already (which she’d been using happily until two weeks ago). And every so often, the scale of this hits me and sends my not-so-inner minimalist into a tailspin, thinking about the money I’ve spent (nothing excessive, but still more than I’m strictly happy with) and what’s going to happen when I move (which I’m not planning unless something really big changes in the few months before the lease is up for renewal). I joked the other day that, between the office and my bedroom, I’m basically building a fully-functional tiny house, only… it wasn’t a joke. Not really.

So, yeah: I’m dealing with some stress.

But there’s always stress. I’m not going to meet any of my creative goals unless I figure out how to work around that stress. And the way I’ve been working until now isn’t helping me anymore.

The problem with projects is they’re finite. Eventually, they come to an end (or at least a logical and/or necessary pause), and you have to transition to something new. Different projects require different approaches, even different schedules. Every one of them needs some kind of plan, and every one of them starts with a certain amount of resistance. (At least for me.) I need to overcome inertia to start, and when it’s just one project, that’s fine, but when it’s everything, it’s… not fine. It’s really difficult.

I’m also starting to think that maybe this project-based approach doesn’t actually move my work forward as much as I’d like. I mean, yes, the two photo-a-day projects have noticeably improved my photography. But how much of that is the project itself, and how much of it is just taking photos on a regular basis, and sharing them publicly? Feedback is a huge motivator for me as an artist (as much as it freaks me out), and a creative community of some kind is essential (as much as that freaks me out sometimes). The projects themselves are irrelevant.

That said… routine can be a killer, too. I’m not the kind of person who can sit down at the same time every day and churn out 1500 words, regardless of what I’m working on. (I mean… I can. I’ve been that kind of person, and it was a big factor in my burnout. I’m not going down that road again.) And I definitely don’t want to ritualize the creative process too much. If I need certain circumstances in order to be able to make art, whether that’s a certain environment, or a certain schedule, or even a specific scented candle, then everything falls apart when I can’t repeat the ritual. (Again: I’m speaking of my own experience, here. If the ritual is what works for you, then go for it!)

The trick, then, is figuring out how to consistently produce work, whether fiction or photography or something else entirely, and get regular feedback, without turning it into a chore. It’s figuring out how to focus on the process, rather than the outcome, while still keeping my long-term goals (which still haven’t changed, so at least that’s something) in sight. It’s figuring out what really motivates me, and how to tap into that.

I don’t know how to do that.

It would be nice if I could wrap up this blog post with some clear answers, if I could say for sure what I was going to do. It’s taken three days and over a thousand words just to articulate the problem in a way that makes sense to me, and I’m still thinking about what the solution is.

So that’s what I’m going to be doing in September: thinking about my creative process, and my day-to-day routine, and looking at ways that I can improve it. I’m going to try to get back to regular posting on Instagram, though it probably won’t be a specific project. I’m going to work on the Violet Lane outline and continue to try very hard not to worry about The Black Sun.

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime… if you’ve gone through this, and come to any conclusions, I’d love to hear what helped you. If you’re still going through something like this, I’d love to hear from you, too—we can puzzle over the dilemma together.

100 Days of Black & White: Day 100 | Reghan Skerry

100 Days of Black & White: #091-100

Photography

I made it!

And I did it in the 12-14 days I said I would! (This roundup is happening about a week late, because the last week has been a bit of a mess.)

I am really happy about how this project turned out. When I finished my 365 project, I was struck by how much my photography had improved over the course of the year and the project. This 100-day project has been a concentrated version of that same experience: a shorter project, with specific constraints, has improved my work even more.

Obviously, I’m going to start another project. I’m in the process of figuring out what that’s going to be right now (though I’m always looking for new possibilities! If you have a suggestion—or especially a project that you’ve enjoyed in the past—let me know in the comments), and I’ll be starting as soon as possible.

Snapshot #106 | 10 Things for 29 July 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. waking… up at quarter to six on a Saturday to help the cat catch a moth that somehow got inside. (Or… waking up at quarter to six on a Saturday to keep the cat from destroying the apartment in her attempts to catch a moth that somehow got inside.)
2. wondering… where my time is going in the evenings. Clearly, I’m doing something different, but I don’t know what.
3. brainstorming… ideas for a new story. Early days yet, but it has the potential to be kind of fantastic.
4. making… cold-brew iced coffee. Which is incredibly nice on those days when it’s so hot that the 7-minute walk to the coffee shop feels completely unreasonable, even if they do have air conditioning.
5. updating… the florals in black & white gallery.
6. planning… a few little changes to the site. It’s not going to be a full redesign (tempting as it is), but it’s time for a few improvements and new features.
7. taking… another big step on the office update. Every change I make, I fall in love with this space a little more.
8. wishing… the humidity would ease up.
9. trying… an iOS text editor that seems to meet all my criteria. (It’s not as pretty as I’d like, but it syncs with Dropbox and doesn’t implode when I try to open a novel-length file. And that’s really all I need.)
10. getting… ready to make one of my big announcements. This week!

100 Days of Black & White: Day 54 | Reghan Skerry

100 Days of Black & White: #051-060

Photography

I’m honestly starting to freak myself out with this. Just a little.

I’ve managed to stay (mostly) on schedule for more than one week in a row!

And, yeah, there are a couple (or four) photos in this particular group that I’m not really happy with. And, despite my best intentions when I began this project (and I had so many good intentions when I began this project), I’ve been relying on my phone for an awful lot of these photos. (And I’m starting to feel the limitations of my current phone, when it comes to photography.)

But this batch of photos also contains one of the very best photos I’ve taken… possibly ever.

I can live with that.

Snapshot #83 | 10 Things for 13 August 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. hoping… for good weather. It’s been so humid lately.
2. thinking… about a new feature or two for this site.
3. running… a day or two behind on my Project 365 posts… again. Grr. (I mean, I’m almost up-to-date. But not quite.)
4. getting… more and more frustrated with Pinterest every day. Not only are the ads getting more and more obnoxious (I don’t object to ads in general, but in practice these ones are seriously annoying), but they’ve apparently stopped showing my feed in any kind of order (so I’m missing new stuff and seeing old stuff over and over again), and, the last two days, it’s been impossible to pin images from anywhere but the site itself. It’s maddening.
5. finishing… my painting! I haven’t put it up yet (there are reasons), or even decided which way I want to orient it (the joys of abstract art!), but the painting itself is done!
6. looking… at new to-do lists and productivity systems. This is sort of a week off for me, so it feels like a good time to reevaluate how I do things.
7. taking… Lucy for her annual terrorize-the-vet’s-office visit. (They’ve actually said that she doesn’t need to come back next year. Unless there’s an actual reason, they’re perfectly fine with her only coming in when she needs to have her vaccinations updated.)
8. buying… that new camera bag I was thinking about. So far, I love it… the real test is going to be this week.
9. falling… out of love with Twitter. It makes me a little sad, but… yeah. I keep feeling like I should use it more, but I don’t really want to.
10. making… early plans for NaNoWriMo.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "06. Animal" | Reghan Skerry

Weekly Photo Challenge 2016 | Week #06: ‘Animal’

Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "06. Animal" | Reghan Skerry

I’m trying to get Lucy to relax around the camera. I can get ok pictures with my phone—she’s used to that, and doesn’t tense up when it’s pointed in her direction—but I want the control (and sharpness) that the real camera can provide. (Cats shouldn’t be camera-shy. And yet….) It’s an ongoing process; eventually, I will get the picture I want.

There was a lot of bribery involved in this picture.

Snapshot #39 | 10 Things for 6 December 2015

Personal

Lucy, November 2015 | Reghan Skerry

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a cat photo, and Lucy actually sat still for once.

Currently…

1. wondering… why I can’t find solid red washi tape in any local stores.
2. drinking… more hot chocolate in the last two weeks than I’ve had in the last two years. (It’s been that kind of autumn.)
3. catching… up on everything that’s been filling up my DVR over the last couple of months. (Heroes Reborn isn’t as good as season one of the original series, but not as bad as the third season. It’s fun.)
4. making… lists. So many lists.
5. feeling… lazy.
6. hoping… that I haven’t over-committed myself.
7. waiting… for, like, three different shipments that have to arrive in time for Christmas, and it’s killing me.
8. losing… motivation, and momentum, and it means I’ve got so much to do this coming week.
9. trying… to avoid Doctor Who spoilers until I can watch the episode (so, Monday night). So if the entire internet could just… not talk about it, that’d be great.
10. loving… this video by Shea Glover. It’s amazing. ♥