Sketchbook #31


When it comes to the big picture, I have a three-month attention span.

It takes three months for that initial burst of energy and enthusiasm to fade.

It takes three months to lose sight of my big goals, and get bored with the day-to-day grind required to achieve them. Three months to start to question whether those goals are actually possible, and whether I’ve got the drive to see them through. Three months to start thinking ’I don’t feel like writing today. I’ll make it up tomorrow.’

In other words, March was difficult.

Not impossible. I put together an almost-complete outline for Violet Lane in about a week, and I’ve been working on a new photo project that I’m really enjoying. Plus, I had a few days in which outside forces conspired to keep me from doing much at all, and that annoyed me enough to push me to start moving again. But that kind of motivation doesn’t really last very long—a week later I was doing things again, but I was feeling stuck, too.


I’ve been taking some time to get myself focussed again, to remind myself what I want to be doing and why I’m doing it. I’ve been looking at what’s stopping me from doing those things, at what gets in my way and keeps me from writing, or taking photos, or whatever it is, and I’ve been coming up with ways to avoid falling into those old familiar traps. I’ve been looking at the way I spend my time, and how I organize my work, and just generally trying to figure out how to do things better. I’m doing what I can to eliminate the worst of my distractions, the ones that steal my attention and don’t give anything back in return. I’m looking at how others have pulled themselves out of ruts like this, and seeing what I can apply to my own situation.

And, as I write the current draft, I’m trying to pay attention to how I’m doing it, what works and what doesn’t. I’ve spent too much time only vaguely aware of my own process, and so, every time I start a new story, I’ve got to figure everything out from scratch. Again.

This all sounds kind of clinical. Maybe it is. But I feel good about the way things are going right now. Violet Lane is progressing nicely, if slowly. I’m on a bit of a roll with the photo project (having fresh flowers on hand helps with that… I’m not quite sure what I’ll do when they finally start to fade). And, a step at a time, I’m getting back on track.

I’m not there yet. Of course I’m not. It’s going to take a while to figure this out. And I’m not going to try to make a hundred changes at once – the temptation is there, but if I do too much too fast, I’ll just end up overwhelmed and right back where I started.

But I’m moving in the right direction. That’s the important thing.

Sketchbook #20

Productivity, Writing

Let me start by saying: February was a strange month. It was filled with schedule disruptions (so much snow), and motivational lulls, and the weird feeling that comes with being between writing projects (I’d forgotten that that feeling even exists.) It’s one of those months that feels like I didn’t accomplish anything at all.

My goal for the month was to prioritize my creativity. And… I’ve done that, as much as those schedule disruptions could allow. I’ve stopped checking news and social media before my work is done for the day, and that’s been nothing but good. It was really difficult for the first few days, but that was it—I’ve successfully broken the habit, and when I do read the news or check Twitter, it’s intentional. It doesn’t interfere with my work, and I’m not spending all day simmering with anger over the latest outrage.

(That said… I’m not posting to Twitter quite as much as I’d like. But that’s probably unavoidable.)


I haven’t eliminated, or even minimized, the other distractions that I’ve been dealing with lately. If anything, cutting out news and social media has made me more aware of those other distractions, and more aware of how I really want to be spending my time. But I’m not too worried. Taking care of those things one at a time, and replacing them with better habits, is probably more effective in the long run than trying to change my entire routine all at once.

And, really, I have accomplished quite a bit this month. I’ve made real progress on the sewing project that’s been on my list since sometime last year. (I’ll probably be putting the finishing touches on this week, and then I’ll be ready to show it to you. I’m thrilled with how it’s turning out.) The daily photo project is still going strong, even when I’m not feeling particularly inspired. (I know I’ve said this before, but: I am really glad that I didn’t give myself any kind of rules for this project. I know it would have crashed and burned by now if I was trying to do anything more involved than “one photo a day that doesn’t completely suck.”)

And I’ve decided on my next writing project! I’m still in the very early stages of planning, and it’s going to require a massive amount of prep work (more research and worldbuilding than I’ve had to do in years, even before I took my break from writing), but… it’s interesting. I’m so excited to get to work on it. I’m not sure when I’m actually going to be ready to start writing (I keep thinking I should set some kind of deadline for myself, just so I don’t get too bogged down in prep), but I’m not going to rush it. I’m just about ready to reread my NaNoWriMo draft, and start making my plans for the rewrite, so even if I don’t start writing the new story until this November, I’m still going to have something to work on.

So, yeah. Despite everything, it wasn’t a terrible month. Not as great as I’d hoped, but… not terrible.

My goal for March is to get back on track. Eliminate a few more of those distractions I mentioned, and replace them with better systems. Finish the sewing project. Start digging into the NaNo story again, and start really working on the next one. Focus on the work I want to be doing.

Sketchbook #19

Art + Craft, Photography, Productivity, Writing

I generally plan to post these creative roundups on the last Monday of each month.

You might’ve noticed that this isn’t the last Monday of the month. Or that I didn’t actually do a post like this at the end of December.

I’ll be honest: I was busy in December, and blogging wasn’t my highest priority in January. The political situation in the States is still taking up most of my attention, and everything that’s left has been devoted to finishing the novel draft that I started in November and starting the two photo projects I’ve decided to tackle this year.

On the bright side: I finished the NaNoWriMo draft! It took a little longer than I expected—the last major set piece, in particular, was tricky to write—but it’s done. The final count is around 90,000 words, 40K of which I’ve written since November ended.

I promised a proper postmortem once the draft was done, and that will be coming soon. I need to take a couple of days to decompress, and then I’ll be ready to think about it.

I’ve also been thinking about what comes next. I am going to revise this particular story (that alone is a small miracle: I actually think the story is worth revising!), but I need to step away for a week or two to get a bit of distance. But I learned over the holidays that two weeks away from writing is just too long; it took almost a week to get my pre-Christmas momentum back. And since it’ll be a few weeks before I’m ready to start the actual revisions on the NaNo story (I think the next draft is going to need a whole new outline), I need something to work on in the meantime.

I’ve been playing with some other story ideas, trying to decide which one to work on next. Two of them in particular feel promising, but they’re both a bit vague right now. I’ll give myself a day or two to not think about writing at all, then see if I can turn one or the other or both into something like a story.

It’s been a good writing month.

It’s been a good photography month, too.

I already mentioned that I’ve started a 365 project for 2017. I already covered my reasoning in the introductory post, so I won’t bother going into too much detail here, except to say that I’m still really happy with how it’s going. It’s only been a month, but I’m still really happy with how it’s going. Are all—or even most—of the pictures brilliant? Yeah, no. But there have only been one or two so far that I’d call completely terrible, and considering how uninspired I’ve felt some days, that’s a pretty good record.

That particular project aside, I’m trying to be a little more intentional with my photography this year. I didn’t take many photos in January (this is always a slow time of year for me), but I’m trying to think about the photos I do take, and make an effort to improve my craft. I’ve been printing some of my work—not just the good pictures, but the ones that I can learn from—and I’m (slowly) learning to keep a sketchbook.

It’s an interesting process, and I’m having fun with it.

Speaking of sketchbooks… it’s taken some time, but I’m starting to get back into drawing again. I set it aside in November so I’d have more time to write, and December got busy, so it hasn’t been a priority for a while. But I’ve been picking it up again, and I’m starting to see a little bit of improvement. (It sort of feels like setting aside my story for a couple of weeks: I need to find some distance in order to see my progress.)

So, yeah: I didn’t really have a solid plan going into January beyond finishing the NaNoWriMo draft, but it’s been a good month. Just a little unfocussed.

My big goal for February is to prioritize my creative work.

And that means eliminating—or at least minimizing—some of the distractions that have been getting in my way. The first thing I’m going to do is to cut out (almost) all news and social media before I’ve reached my creative targets for the day. I’ll probably still check the headlines (just to make sure that the world hasn’t, in fact, ended overnight) and I can check the social media that inspires me rather than drains me, but that’s it. Everything else can and will wait until after my writing and photography and art is done for the day.

It hasn’t been easy (it really hasn’t been easy), but I can already tell it’s going to benefit my work.

So, that’s where I stand going into February. I’m… pretty happy with everything, actually. It’s a weird feeling right now.

Sketchbook #3

Art + Craft, Writing

Recently, I started sharing updates and behind-the-scenes looks at the various creative projects I’m working on: writing, painting, photography, whatever works I happen to have in progress. It’s probably going to take a couple of tries before I figure out the format, but you can expect to see these Sketchbook posts on the last Monday of each month. Love it? Hate it? Have something else you’d like to see? Tell me what you think!

Sketchbook #3 |

Old-school editing: printed copies and a red pen. Not sure if it’s any more effective than just doing it all on the computer.

I’m not going to lie: the last few weeks have been a struggle creatively.

I lost two weeks to a stupid summer cold (summer colds are always the worst), and then just when I started to come around, I got distracted by travel plans. Doing anything creative has been difficult.

But I’ve been trying. And now that the major plans are in place for the trip, it’s been getting easier to focus.

I’m back to writing (almost) every day. I’ve been working on a few different projects (because I keep finding shiny new things to explore), and I’ve started serious editing work on the scene-turned-short-story I mentioned last month. Some of it has been terrible (I have a hard time writing dialogue-heavy scenes that don’t suck. I mean, the actual dialogue is decent, but I tend to forget about all the stuff going on in between… this might be why I kind of enjoy the screenplay format), but when it’s good, it’s really good.

I can’t remember the last time I was this happy with anything I’d written.

Drawing isn’t going quite so well. Nothing terrible, but… every time I put active effort into improving my skills, I hit a wall. Things go well for a little while, and then suddenly, I just… stop seeing any progress, and I get frustrated.

I’m at that point right now.

Now, the good thing is, this time I know that this is a pattern I fall into. I know that I just have to keep working on the particular techniques that I’m having trouble with, and eventually, I’ll start to move forward again.

It’s going to be boring. It’s going to be annoying.

But I will get past it eventually, and then it’ll start to be fun again.

I’ve got another disruption coming up this week, and I don’t know how much time I’m going to be able to spend writing or drawing. But It’s going to be a really good week for photography, so I’m not going to worry too much about anything else.