Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in April.
Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in July.
• The Complete Suite of Friends a Writer Needs by Isabel Yap
• Creative burnout is inevitable. Here are 10 ways to beat it by Co.Design and The Creative Independent: “We’re living in an era when round-the-clock communication is simply a fact of life, and the always-on culture of many workplaces can take an outsize toll on creatives, who need mental and physical energy to do their best work.”
• The Complicated Legacy of ‘The Dark Knight’ by Richard Newby
While we so often refer to The Dark Knight as the best comic book adaptation, filmmakers and audiences have largely failed to learn from its creative lessons: comic book characters are malleable. They are able to be grounded or fantastic, able to be prestigious or pure blockbuster entertainment, to be dark and gritty or light, to be character-driven or action-packed, or any variation in-between.
The film, in case you’re wondering, still holds up — especially at a time when superhero flicks, with a few exceptions, have turned assembly-line anonymity into both an aesthetic and a transactional promise. Seen through today’s glut of pro forma blockbusters, The Dark Knight seems like that rarest of movies — a mass-market product that also happens to be a personal picture driven by genuine moral vision.
• Magic Mike XXL Is Basically ‘The Odyssey,’ But With Butts by Helena Fitzgerald
The primary point of the Hero’s Journey is that the quest leads up to a decisive victory that can be won; the day can be saved, good can triumph over evil. But Magic Mike, although it seems like a quest, is a story totally uninterested in victory or in achievement.
• ‘My brain feels like it’s been punched’: the intolerable rise of perfectionism by Paula Cocozza: The pursuit of perfection, taken to extremes, can lead to OCD and depression – and the number of students reporting the problem has jumped by 33% since 1989
• Don’t Feed the Trolls, and Other Hideous Lies by Film Crit Hulk: “It starts by acknowledging that these systems are so large and pervasive and such an important part of people’s forward-facing lives that it is intrinsically necessary to protect the well-being of the people on it.”
• Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read by Julie Beck: “With its streaming services and Wikipedia articles, the internet has lowered the stakes on remembering the culture we consume even further. But it’s hardly as if we remembered it all before.”
• Living Alone and Liking It by Ashley Fetters: “The fraught nature of the “bachelorette pad” ideal, though, could be rooted in layers upon layers of historical anxiety about women living alone, and it takes only a rudimentary knowledge of the world’s power dynamics to understand why.”
What’s the most interesting thing you saw online this month?
This hasn’t been an easy post to write. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve started, and stopped, and then started again.
2016 was awful, in so many ways. Starting with Bowie, and ending with the US election, this has been a terrible year for so many of us. And I really haven’t wanted to do any kind of recap—I’m too focussed on what comes next.
But if I look at the year from a purely creative standpoint, and if I think about what my plans for this year were, I didn’t do too bad.
Going into 2016, I had two major goals: to create more than I consume, and to consume with intention.
I’ll tackle the second one first, since it’s a little more straightforward. I wanted to make it a point to read and watch and listen to media that inspires me, rather than just stuff that fills the time. And I’ve been trying to do that. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’ve been watching more movies and reading better books than I did in 2015.
It’s a process, and I’m going to keep it up.
The first goal—creating more than I consume—is a little trickier to measure.
I mean, yeah: I track my time. Strictly speaking, I know that I spent more time consuming media than creating it—especially in the first half of the year. But “time spent” doesn’t really feel like the best way to judge my progress on this particular goal, even though it’s the only way I can think of to quantify it.
This feels like a goal that’s better judged on quality, rather than quantity.
As far as photography goes, this year was… ok. Not great. Despite all my good intentions, I never did get back on track with my 52-Week Photo Challenge. And while I am a little annoyed with myself for that, I’m also kind of ok with it. Toward the end of the year, it was starting to cause more stress than it was really worth: the motivation wasn’t there, my schedule wasn’t cooperating with some of the prompts, and my perfectionist tendencies were starting to get the better of me.
I’m glad I started it, and I really like some of the photos I got out of it, but I also don’t really regret letting it go when I needed to. And I have a photo project in mind for next year that will take some of the pressure off but still manage to give me a bit of a challenge.
That particular project aside, I’m feeling pretty good about my photography this year. I didn’t take quite as many pictures as I would have liked (or as many as I probably should have), but I’m happy with the pictures I took this year, which is a nice change.
The big change this year was writing.
When I started 2016, I didn’t plan to write a word of fiction. I was pretty sure I’d left that behind for good, even though the ideas refused to leave me alone.
And now, somehow, I’ve got an almost-complete first draft of a novel that I don’t hate.
This is huge.
I mean… is it great? No. It’s a first draft. But I’ve already figured out how to fix the biggest problems, and I’m really looking forward to the next draft. I still don’t quite know what I’m going to do with it when I’m done, but I don’t remember the last time I stuck with a writing project for this long (the vague plans started in spring, the serious outlining started in October, and I’ve put actual words on the page nearly every day since November 1) without deciding I hated everything about it, including the very concept of writing.
And I’ve got at least two more story ideas that I want to start writing right now.
For me, this goal was about finding a balance between creation and consumption—spending less time scrolling through Pinterest and Twitter, and more time doing work I could be proud of.
And I think I managed that. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’m getting there.
On the last Monday of the month, I like to check in and let you guys know what creative projects I’ve been working on, and what sort of progress I’m making.
March has been ok, I guess, but a bit different than I’m used to. I spent the first week or so deep in planning mode, trying to figure out what my creative goals actually are, and figuring out how to go about achieving them.
It’s been… surprising.
Not all of it, of course. Photography is still my priority. The 52-week project is still going well (I’m getting it done, even when I’m not really into it, which is part of the point), and I’ve started looking at some of the other photo projects I want to work on over the next few months. And drawing is still a comfortable hobby—I’m still stuck on the same plateau I was on in February, but I’m (slowly) seeing some improvement. It’s not something I stress about too much.
The surprise is that, apparently, I’m not done with writing fiction.
Which isn’t to say that I’m actually writing again. But when I was thinking about what I want to do, how I want to spend my time, writing kept coming up. And I keep playing with ideas that feel like novels or scripts, and I have this slightly-uncomfortable feeling that, at some point, I’m going to want to start writing one of them.
I really don’t know how I feel about that.
I still haven’t figured out how to go about the whole thing without burning myself out and starting to hate the entire writing process. I’m starting to think of ways to get around my natural tendency toward perfectionism (which is a problem in everything I do, but is particularly damaging when it comes to writing), though it’s not a problem I’ve come close to solving yet.
That’s what March has been like: a lot of thinking about projects, but not nearly enough progress. Now that I know what I want to do next (or, at least, now that I have some ideas), I should be able to start getting some real work done in April.
Wish me luck.
1. remembering… that I was supposed to get this post up yesterday. Oops.
2. wondering… whether someone at Canada Post has been reading the books I ordered. (Seriously—the package has been at the local sorting facility since last Tuesday. It’s embarrassing.)
3. cleaning… up so many old files.
4. perfecting… a recipe I’ve been tweaking forever. Finally. (I also settled on what to make for Easter dessert, so it’s been a good couple of weeks, cooking-wise.)
5. looking… at fabric. I think I’ve chosen something new for the desk chair.
6. getting… to work. The massive planning session is over, and now it’s time to start putting plans into action.
7. thinking… about perfectionism. It’s been a problem. I need to do something about it.
8. trying… to remember that, sometimes, perfectionism isn’t a bad thing.
9. checking… things off my lists. It’s a good feeling.
10. eating… so many Cadbury Creme Eggs. So many.
Last night, just before I fell asleep, I had a burst of inspiration. I knew, suddenly, how to make the writing project I’ve been sorta-kinda thinking about work. I grabbed my phone, made some quick notes, and hoped that they weren’t going to be the sort of notes that make perfect sense when you’re half-asleep, but turn into gibberish in the morning. (They weren’t. The idea is still good.)
This morning, I spent my entire workout planning a complex multimedia (text/photography/maybe some video) project, thinking about logistics and content and timeframes. I even started drafting bits of it out in my head. The workout went by in a flash.
For the last week, I’ve been toying with a really good idea for a new semi-regular feature here at the blog. I know what I want to write about for the first two columns, I just have to figure out exactly how I want to do it.
So it’s not like I have a shortage of things I could be working on.
But instead, I’m watching the trailer for the new series of Doctor Who (again). I’m trying to decide what colour rain boots I should buy (I’m torn, as always, between whimsy and versatility). I’m thinking about what to have for supper tomorrow.
It’s tempting to blame it on taking some time off, and the disruption it caused to my routine. And if I’d had more time to think about it, I probably wouldn’t have chosen that particular week to take off, precisely for that reason. It wasn’t a good time for a break. But the real problem is, all of these projects, exciting as they are, scare me to death. They’re just far enough out of my comfort zone—a step or two beyond what I know I can do—that the idea of starting them, and not having them reach their potential, freaks me out. (Even the blog series, which is pretty straightforward. There’s still a small part of me that wonders whether I can pull it off as well as I hope.)
I know how pointless that sort of worry is. I know that perfectionism is a trap. I know that the projects won’t turn out exactly the way I want them to, and that that’s a good thing. I know that everyone goes through this. And I know that I won’t stop worrying about any of this, and it doesn’t matter, I have to push forward and trust that it’ll work.
I just need to remind myself of that sometimes.