Sketchbook #43

Writing

May has taught me that I really do need to build a better system for managing my writing projects.

It started off well enough—I had finished drafts of both The Black Sun and Violet Lane, vague plans for my next project (very tentatively titled These Modern Things), and I was excited to move forward. And then… not much happened.

May wasn’t awful. I’ve been brainstorming the new story and figuring out what I need to do with Violet Lane, and I’m waiting to hear from readers of The Black Sun. I’ve been beta reading a story for a friend. So it’s not like I haven’t done anything this month but… it kind of feels like it.

Snapshot #127 | 10 Things for 19 May 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. starting… to pick up supplies for the balcony garden. It’s always a challenge (between the light and the nearby oak trees that try to murder the competition, nothing seems to want to grow out there), but I live in hope.
2. moving… forward with my big scary photo project. Small steps, but in the right direction.
3. thinking… about my creative process, and the things I want to make—in both writing and photography. Exciting things are coming. (Eventually. These things take time.)
4. getting… ready to update my inspiration board.
5. deciding… that I hate the little rubber backs that come on enamel pins now. They’re too easy to lose. (At least I noticed before I lost the pin, too.)
6. accepting… that it’s time to make some updates to the site design around here. I’ve been dancing around the idea for a while, mostly wondering if I was just procrastinating on other things, but… yeah. It’s time. I’m still deciding if it’s a full revamp, or just a refresh.
7. chipping… away at the podcast backlog. Again. (Always.)
8. looking… for a good baby-name site, with historical and demographic data and a good recommendation engine. (For naming characters. Not babies.) I used Nymbler for years, but I kind of hate how it works since the redesign.
9. setting… deadlines.
10. making… a new running playlist. The old one just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Close up of dew drops on a blade of grass. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

Project366: #101-110

Photography

Ok. Yeah.

The last ten days of photos… aren’t great. They’re not awful, I don’t actively hate any of them, but… most of them are ok at best. I only genuinely like two of these photos.

Over the last week or so, I haven’t been paying as much attention to photography as I’d like—I’m relying on my phone, and still taking photos just to check it off the to-do list, rather than putting any kind of effort in.

Sketchbook #41

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

It’s the end of March! And, since it’s also the end of the first quarter of 2019, this feels like a particularly significant creative check-in. I’m trying to focus on 90-day goals this year, or at least breaking down my bigger goals into smaller milestones, and… well, the end of March is my first big deadline of the year.

Sketchbook #39

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

When it comes to creativity, January and December are never great months for me. I spend December—what little isn’t taken up by holiday prep and recovery—in full planning mode, which is good, but it does turn into an excuse not to do the actual work. And January… despite my enthusiasm going in, it always takes me a bit of time to find my rhythms again. Add to that the one-two hit of the new year and my birthday, and I’m suddenly questioning everything.

That’s actually why I’m working on this post right now, when I’d already blocked out this time for writing fiction. I need to step back and take an objective look at some of this stuff, and talking it out here always seems to help me clarify my thoughts. (If you’re not here for my creative-process rambling, consider that your warning. I won’t feel bad if you skip this post.)

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Post-Mortem

Writing

It’s been a week since NaNoWriMo ended, and I haven’t looked at—haven’t even thought about—my draft since then.

That’s a good thing.

I’m not abandoning the story. I’m going to get back to work on it first thing Monday morning. But I needed a break, needed to get myself out of the weird headspace that the end of the month (or the entire month) had put me in. If I’d tried to start writing again before I’d had a chance to recover, the story would have suffered. It wouldn’t even matter if it was any good (even for a first draft), I wouldn’t have been able to separate the story from the stress of writing it, and I probably would’ve wound up hating it.

This break was absolutely necessary, even if it’s left me feeling a bit adrift all week.

And it’s given me a chance to look at my experience of NaNo objectively, and really think about what it taught me this year.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 1 Check-In

Productivity

A quick recap: a little over a week ago, I decided that I needed to get out of the creative and productive rut I’ve fallen into over the past few months. And it would be good if I could prevent myself from going down a similar path in the future.

So I’ve set some goals for the rest of the year, to build a solid foundation for myself and my long-term goals going into 2019.

I’m going to check in with these goals every week. I still haven’t quite decided what form these check-ins are ultimately going to take (and they’re not all going to be on Thursdays). But for now, one week in, I’m just going to look at each of those goals, and the progress I’m making (or not).


Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
As expected, this is the first area where I can see actual progress. I’ve gone through all the unread ebooks I’ve been collecting (am I the only person who finds it really easy to do that? Like, even easier than it always is with physical books?), deleted the ones I know are just ‘junk food,’ and made the ones that I do genuinely want to read easier to find. I cleaned up my ‘wish list’ on my library app, doing the same thing (and adding a few new books that I’m really looking forward to). I’ve (re)committed to watching at least one movie a week; I might increase that to two or three later, if I can make it fit into my schedule. I’ve been doing much better at avoiding those horrible, time-wasting websites.

Have I seen an improvement in my work? Not yet (that would involve doing more work than I have been this week). But I do suddenly have an almost-fully-formed outline in my head for a story that could be so good. Except I very much DO NOT WANT to write the damn thing. Or I do, but… I don’t. (There are reasons. Good ones.) So… I’m not quite sure what to do with that. At least I’m feeling inspired; that’s no small thing.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I said last week that this is my biggest problem. I’m not going to magically fix it in a week.

Right now, I’m in the research stage of things: reading about time management (and trying to separate the useful information from the dross) and looking at different time-tracking techniques (my natural inclination is to use an app, but I’ve done that before, and while it’s easy and can produce pretty graphs, I don’t know if those pretty graphs motivate me to actually change things).

So… not great, but I’m moving in the right direction.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
Yeah… I haven’t even started thinking about this one.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
Hm. I’ve sort of started? Maybe?

I’ve revived the bullet journal I abandoned at the beginning of the year, and I’ve been experimenting with different ways of using that. I’m in research mode, here, too—and, like time management, wading through all the productivity porn and figuring out what’s useful, what’s useful to me, and what’s just empty platitudes… it’s going to take some time. This is actually the area I want put the most effort into over the next week

Finish the work on the office.
More progress! I’m back on track with the decluttering process (it’s a bit slow—it’s a bit of a challenge, even for an unsentimental minimalist like me—but it is happening), I’ve sourced the final supplies I need for my DIY art project, and I’ve finally got good task lighting. I’m feeling good about this.


In all: it’s not terrible. It’s about what I expected for a plan like this, only one week in. Most of my active projects are still in slightly awkward stages, and it’s difficult to build a routine around them just yet. But it’s a start, and everything will start to get easier as I figure out what I’m doing.

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.

Inspired | August 2018

Links

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

On Woman’s Weekly, and why we should all care about their new contract policy by Joanne Harris: “Womag writers are the canary in a very deep literary mine. If we, the more influential and better-protected folk of the literary world, allow their rights to be exploited, then sooner or later companies like TI Media will come for the rest of us.”

Jami Attenberg’s #1000WordsofSummer Turned a Corner of the Internet into a Supportive Literary Community by Amy Carleton: “Writing is work. And writing well, amidst all of our available distractions, online and otherwise, can be hard work. But this summer, one writer found a way to turn a potential distraction — the internet — into a motivational force and an affirming pop-up literary community in only two weeks.”

Is social media influencing book cover design? by Holly Connolly: “Like the recent revival of zines, the encroach of digital has resulted in a renewed appreciation for the physical – and beautiful.”

Writing and the Creative Life: The Tactile Experience of Writing by Scott Myers

The only paper remnant I have kept this whole time are the index cards. That I have refused to give up.

So I asked myself why keep working with index cards? I knew the answer immediately: Because of the tactile experience.

How to accept rejection: why failure can be the first step towards success by Donna Ferguson

Canaries and Coal Mines: Women in Games and the Birth of the Alt-Right by Leena van Deventer [video, 16 minutes]: “To me, navigating creativity in a post-truth world hinges on communicating and working within your values, and assisting others to do the same.”

The Internet of Garbage by Sarah Jeong: “Today, The Verge is publishing an interim edition of Sarah Jeong’s The Internet of Garbage, a book she first published in 2015 that has since gone out of print. It is a thorough and important look at the intractable problem of online harassment.”

Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook: A Guide to Your Rights at the Border by the BC Civil Liberties Association

This handbook is meant to help you make sense of the current state of play with respect to electronic searches at the Canadian border and at US preclearance zones in Canada, and to provide tools to protect your privacy when travelling with electronic devices.

Mike Garson’s first performance of “Life on Mars” with David Bowie, 22 September 1972

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