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.

Snapshot #108 | 10 Things for 26 August 2018



1. drinking… so much cold brew coffee. 🖤
2. thinking… about Twitter, and whether the idea of it (which I still love) is enough to make up for the current reality. I’ve been looking at Mastodon as an alternative, and so far everyone I’ve met there seems nice, but it’s not the utopia I’ve seen suggested. (This thread raises a lot of good points.) (I’m also not 100% sure I’ve got the patience to deal with another social network.)
3. finding… the perfect DIY solution for the big empty wall. (More on that later. I still need to pick up a few supplies.)
4. making… frozen yogurt. It’s… ok. It tasted fine, but it turns out, I still don’t like the texture of Greek yogurt, even when it’s frozen.
5. trying… to find a new approach. To a lot of things.
6. starting… to think that I might still be able to meet my running goals for the year. It’ll be tricky, and I’ve got to be smart about it, but… maybe?
7. getting… distracted.
8. having… a minor panic attack re: all the stuff I’ve been getting for the office. I’m basically done with the major purchases, though, so it’ll be fine once I get used to it.
9. stalking… the neighbour’s new puppy. I haven’t had a chance to say hello yet, so I end up just staring from the window and sighing. (I think it’s a French bulldog? I’ve only seen it from a distance, but it’s tiny.)
10. daydreaming… about buying a school bus and turning it into a tiny house. To the point of searching for used buses (there are two near me!). (How do I reconcile this with #8? I don’t. At all.)

2017 Project365 #60 | Reghan Skerry

Project365: #57-63


This is a first: this week, my daily photo project has produced multiple photographs that I’m genuinely happy with. Obviously, there were still a few days where inspiration failed me entirely, but that’s fine. The good photos more than make up for the bad and uninspired ones.

And, yeah: another picture of a loaf of bread. But I refuse to live in a world where homemade bread is considered too boring to photograph.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "29. Organic" | Reghan Skerry

Weekly Photo Challenge 2016 | Week #29: ‘Organic’


2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "29. Organic" | Reghan SkerryI know. This whole “weekly photo” project hasn’t exactly been a weekly thing lately. Specifically, I still haven’t gotten around to doing weeks 26 (motion) or 28 (triptych).

I’ll be going into more detail about what’s been going on in Monday’s “sketchbook” post: basically, I’m still in the creative doldrums, but slowly managing to find my way out. In the meantime, I have ideas for those two photos (and I’ve actually taken one of the three pictures for “triptych”). I was able to tackle this week’s prompt on time—and I quite like the result. And I have a preliminary idea for next week’s prompt.

I’m going to finish this project. I won’t be hitting every single prompt right on time, and I’m ok with that.


Admin, Personal

The weeks leading up to the move were fantastic. Partly just because I was moving (I’d wanted out of that particular apartment from the day I moved in). But the big thing, the thing that I was most aware of, was that it was an opportunity to get rid of stuff.

Every box I packed made me feel a little better. Every garbage or recycling bag filled. Every trip to donate a bag of clothes or a box of tchotchkes. Even before the actual move, just the act of getting things out of my sight, clearing the slate, made me feel amazing.

Of course, I still have too much stuff. It was painfully obvious (literally) during the actual move, but only really sunk in in the days after, as I started to unpack and tried to find places for everything to go. I came close to tears, cursing whoever had designed the kitchen cabinets. The tension that had faded a little more every time I taped up another box of books was slowly creeping back.

I call myself a minimalist, but it’s usually with a certain amount of irony—an aesthetic ideal that I’ve never really hoped to reach. If you’ve ever glanced at my ‘interiors’ board on Pinterest you know I’m obsessed with pristine white rooms, but that was the extent of it. It wasn’t really a philosophy. But as I started to unpack and settle into the new place, I started to realize that I really am happier when I’m not surrounded by so much stuff.

(This is actually one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to get back to writing here: the office has been a bit of a catch-all while the rest of the apartment is put in order, and I couldn’t stand being in there until recently. It’s still not great, but I can deal with it now. More on the other reasons in a moment.)

So, that’s my project for the next few months: paring things down even further, figuring out what I actually need and what I just think I need, and how to make the rest of it feel less oppressive. Finding the perfect shade of white paint, because builder’s beige makes me sad.

I’m starting here.

First of all, if you’re reading this on the actual site (instead of a newsreader), you’ve noticed the overhaul. I know how soon it seems—the site’s only been up for a couple of months. But the old design didn’t work with what I want to do with the site (which has become clearer in the last few weeks), and it really didn’t work with how visitors were using the site. So, for now, I’m bringing things back to a more traditional blog format; it’s not a permanent solution, but it’ll do for now, and it will lead nicely into what I want to do later.

Second, I’m changing my posting schedule. ‘What posting schedule?’ you ask. There was one planned, but it was both overambitious and unfocussed, and I should have known that there was no way I’d be able to keep up with it. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve refined my plans, and I’m fully confident that you’ll be seeing new posts a few times a week.

I’m still sorting things out—here and in the apartment—and you’ll have to forgive me any strangeness that occurs while I figure out exactly what’s going on.