I thought that October was going to be busy, that there were a lot of things that would get in the way of my creative goals.
It turned out to be even busier than I expected: I’ve only had one full week without interruptions (even today they’re testing the fire alarms in my building, which is always a joy—that’s why I’m working on this blog post instead of fiction), I’ve had inconvenient (but not serious) health issues crop up, and it’s just been generally difficult to stay motivated.
But I did it.
I’ll start with Violet Lane. I wanted to reach the midpoint by the end of the month. I’m not quite there, but I’m close. It’s on the horizon. And I like the story. It’s really good (considering it’s still very much a first draft, and ‘really good’ in this context means disjointed and messy and kind of terrible in some places), and more importantly, I’m having fun with it. It’s still not easy to write, and I’ve definitely had days when it just wasn’t working, but overall, writing it is a good experience this time around.
Also, I mentioned it on Twitter, but getting back into a proper mid-writing-session coffee break has done wonders for my writing routine. The caffeine helps, obviously, but mostly it’s the process of actually grinding the beans and heating the water. It gets me away from the work for a few minutes, but in a way that focusses, rather than distracts. It’s fantastic, and I love it.
September wasn’t terrible.
It wasn’t great. Losing power for two and a half days knocked me off my stride, and it took me longer to recover than it should have. I haven’t been happy with my photos lately (I already mentioned that). I’ve been dragging my feet on pretty much every big important project I’ve got going right now, and looking for any excuse I can find to avoid working on them.
But I’ve made it through the first act of Violet Lane. It’s been slower than I’d planned, and I’m still having a hard time settling into a consistent writing rhythm, but I’m having a lot of fun with the story. For the first time since that very first draft, lo these many years ago, it feels fresh and exciting. Tearing everything down to the foundations helped immensely in this case, and I’m glad I took the risk.
I’m taking photos. Even if I’m not thrilled with the results, just the fact that I’m carrying a camera on a regular basis and taking photos is a win.
September hasn’t been terrible, and after July and August, I’ll take it.
But I do need to get past ‘not terrible’ and start making real progress again.
I said last month that I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough, and (obviously) that’s still true. Creatively, it’s because I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock, in both my writing and photography, where I’m not quite sure what the next steps are. I’ve reached the limit of my skills; that’s not a bad thing (it happens to all of us, all the time), but it does mean that I need to think about how to ‘level up.’ I’ve got some ideas for how to do that with photography—I’m more aware of my weaknesses there, and as a medium it lends itself to dedicated practice—but I’m having a harder time figuring out my options for writing. (If you have suggestions, let me know. I might have an idea, but I have to think about it a bit more.)
The other reason I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough is simple fear.
I ended last month’s creative review by wondering if it might be time for a reset. I knew I had to figure out some stuff with how I manage my time, and I had to figure out what I was going to do about Violet Lane. From a technical standpoint, I was happy with the photos I’d been taking, but from a creative standpoint, I was getting bored.
I must have forgotten about all that as soon as I wrote it, because when I sat down to write today’s review, I was sure that this funk I’m in has only been a couple of weeks. Not a couple of months.
I’ll start with the good news, because there is good news. I’ve figured out what I’m doing with Violet Lane.
“Maybe I’ll have some answers by the end of June,” I said.
Why do I set myself up like that?
I’m being a little overdramatic. The first two weeks of the month were good. Really good. It took a few days to figure out what I was doing with Violet Lane, but I’m well into the second draft now, and it feels like the big changes (cutting down the number of point-of-view characters, eliminating one character entirely, et cetera) are the right ones. I’m still wavering a bit on the tone (I want to make it darker, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I might have to rework the main character again), but in general, I’m happy with it.
My progress with photography is… ok. I’m in a bit of a rut—so many flowers—and I’m trying to figure out how to push myself out of my comfort zone with that. Part of the problem, I think, is that I’m in a bit of a rut when it comes to my routine in general—I do the same things and go to the same places, travelling the same routes, at roughly the same time every week—so I’m not seeing anything new. Nothing is feeling fresh or interesting. (I haven’t gone on as much as a day trip in over a year. The logistics for that kind of thing get tricky when you don’t drive.) Plenty of photographers have found inspiration in mundane environments, but I’m dealing with a general sense of frustration that’s just feeding on itself right now, and I need to figure out how to break myself out of it.
That said, the flower photos are ok—some of them have been quite good—they’re just boring.
Other than that things have been pretty much progressing as expected: I’m having fun with the website redesign, I’ve been making some real progress when it comes to figuring out my long-term plans (which… yeah, I kind of worked on that a few months ago, but I’ve been refining the ideas and framing them in a way that means I can work toward them rather than just dream about them), and I took a few small steps toward that big project that I’m still not announcing, even though I fully intended to do so this month. (More on that in a minute.)
… and then I came down with a cold. Nothing much has happened since last Wednesday. At all.
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.
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.
In a lot of ways, February is when my real work starts—even in a good year, it takes me a few weeks to find my routines and start moving forward again with my writing, or photography, or… whatever.
This year, February has been a very good month.
My goals going in were to move forward with the photo-a-day project I started at the end of January, to find my rhythms in Violet Lane and The Black Sun again, and to start making time for the creative hobbies I want to explore over the course of the year. (I was also hoping to make up my mind about Scrivener, and to start moving forward on my big scary photography goal again.)
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.)
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.