Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in November: writing the other, art & politics, creative success, and more.
Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in October: stories that are neither character- nor plot-driven, the good guy/bad guy myth, thoughts on digital privacy, the history of women’s restroom lounges, and more.
Less than one hundred days left to go in this particular project, and I’m starting to wonder what comes next.
I know that this sort of daily project does wonders for my photography. I’m proud of some of the photos I’ve taken over the last ten months, and I know that they wouldn’t have happened without the commitment I made to post something new every single day. I wouldn’t have gotten into the habit of carrying a real camera so often, and probably would gone days or weeks without taking a photo. (Just look at 2018.)
One of my resolutions for 2019 was to “actively seek out inspiration,” to not only look for the art and media that made me want to do things, but to engage with it more.
I also said I’d keep you up to date with that.
Right. Yeah. Sorry.
I haven’t figured out a way to talk about it that feels natural for this space. I tend to shy away from writing reviews or critiques—even short ones—but I don’t know a better way to do it. (If you have an idea, drop it in the comments! I really do want to sort something out.)
But I have been doing the important part: over the last couple of months, I’ve been more intentional in the movies I choose to watch and the books I choose to read. This time, it’s not just a matter of pulling myself out of a rut (though… it’s kind of that, too), it’s about looking at the media that thrills me, and picking it apart and figuring out why I love it so much—and why it frustrates me, because most of the time, the stories I love the most are the ones that infuriate me. Not only are my standards higher, but I spend more time thinking about the story, working through character arcs and plot threads, and eventually—inevitably—seeing the places where they fall apart.
(And, no, I’m not talking about Game of Thrones—I’ve never watched it—but I do have to acknowledge that it’s part of the reason I’m thinking about this stuff right now. I’ve been watching the discussion over the past few weeks, and it’s given me a lot of new ideas about craft and storytelling.)
(I am talking about Avengers: Endgame. At least a little bit.)
Here’s the thing: I love writing, and I love photography. I love studying them, I love doing them. And I’m not terrible at either of them—on a good day, I can admit I’m actually pretty ok at both of them.
But it’s always been hard for me to actually make myself write, or make myself take photos.
And it’s not easy to explain why. Perfectionism’s a problem, definitely. Sometimes it really is a lack of motivation, and sometimes it’s that I build it up so much in my head that I can’t bring myself to start. (Or worse, I have a couple of bad days in the middle of a project, and I put too much weight on them… and can’t get started again.) Sometimes, I think I’m just lazy.
I’ve done well at getting past these blocks when it comes to writing. I write more days than I don’t lately, and I feel good about what I’ve been producing. I’ve made writing friends, people I talk with on a regular basis—about the process, and the challenges—and who help keep me moving forward. (And vice versa! Helping other people get through their own blocks actually does wonders for my own motivation.)
Photography… I’m not quite there yet. I’ve had good moments, and I’ve got some acquaintances who, when I can get over myself and share my photos, are really supportive. (Seriously: thank you. It means more to me than I can say, and I feel awful for not even opening Instagram and returning the favour in… five months? I am so sorry about that.)
With writing, I tend to have concrete projects I can work on: specific stories that I can take from concept to (eventually, hopefully) finished draft. A lot of the photography I do (or try to do) doesn’t work like that, so I’m always trying to overcome the inertia to get started.
Obviously, I need to figure out how to approach photography the way I do writing, and find specific projects to work on.
I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to escape from 2018, but… here we are! 2019! Only a week in and already so weird but… so far, things are marginally better than last year, so I’ll take it.
I’m not going to dwell on 2018. On a purely personal level, it wasn’t terrible. I didn’t reach most of the big goals I’d set out for myself, because I genuinely dropped the ball, or because I underestimated the amount of work involved, or because it’s really hard to focus on certain creative projects when the world is on fire. But, overall, I’m really proud of what I did accomplish. I’m happy with the stories I worked on, and the photos I took, and the general progress I made. I wish there’d been more, but… it was good.
And those big goals I didn’t reach last year? I’m moving them to this year. And, no, I’m not going to tell you what they are just yet. (Though if you’ve been reading the newsletter, you know about at least two of them.) I’ll announce them—and any other big projects I come up with—when they’re ready, or when they’re about to start. I’m really excited about all of them, and I can’t wait to share them with you. (The first major announcement will come in about two weeks.)
Big goals aside, for the first time in… I don’t know how long… I’m making something that could actually be considered ‘resolutions,’ though I’m reluctant to use that word for some reason.
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.
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.
I’ve been kind of obsessed with todo lists this week.
I know. Try to contain your excitement.
Really, though, it’s a bit of a dilemma for me. For a long time, my go-to bio on social media included the phrase ‘list-maker,’ right after ‘writer’ and ‘photographer.’ I love a good todo list.
But I have no idea how to make one work for me.
It’s one thing if it’s a specific project, and I can just check things off until I’m done, but in a more general context… no idea. I’ve never found a system that works for me, whether it’s pen-and-paper, or bare-bones digital, or a digital system with all the bells and whistles. I always start with enthusiasm, sure I’ve found the perfect setup, but within a few months, things start slipping, I start putting things off, and then I start looking for the new perfect tool.
(The one exception—in that it really did work for me for about a year—was Habitica. Since I was in a fairly active guild, if I didn’t check things off it affected other people, not just me. But the todo list aspect didn’t actually have all the features I needed (specifically, more customizable repeatable actions).)
I know that it doesn’t really have anything to do with the tools I use. It’s me. (Though I do have a few issues with the Eisenhower matrix. I can see how it’s useful, but… yeah. I might go into detail on that at some point, once I’ve figured out how to articulate my thoughts.)
I need to figure out how to use a to-do list effectively, and how to motivate myself. If nothing else, I know that after a certain point, just checking things off a list doesn’t cut it.
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?