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.

Snapshot #69 | 10 Things for 29 January 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. feeling… horrified by everything that’s going on in the States, but I’m feeling hopeful and inspired, too—the people’s reaction has been amazing.
2. finishing… the draft I started for NaNoWriMo. As I write this, I’m down to one major scene, and a few loose ends that need to be tied up. I might be finished by the time this post goes live. (If not, I will be finished by the end of the month.)
3. watching… Rogue One. I know: I’m getting to it late, but at least I’m getting to it. (This afternoon, actually.)
4. wishing… I’d been able to attend the Women’s March last weekend. It looked incredible.
5. looking… for a good whole-wheat bread recipe. (This is one of those things that I’m really picky about.)
6. caffeinating.
7. starting… to find the rhythm of the new year.
8. trying… to decide which writing project to tackle next—I need to set the NaNo draft aside for a couple of weeks, but I don’t want to lose my momentum. I’ve got two different ideas that both feel promising.
9. thinking… about tattoos. (Again? Still? I’m indecisive.)
10. realizing… that I haven’t even started to think about this month’s Sketchbook post. It might be a bit late… we’ll see.

Sketchbook #18

Personal, Writing

So! This month!

My creative life has pretty much been taken over by NaNoWriMo. Which isn’t a bad thing—I kind of knew that was going to happen, and I planned accordingly. But it doesn’t really leave me with a lot to talk about here. Despite the cold that knocked me back last week, I’m on track to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month (!!), but I’m only about two thirds of the way through the story. I’m going to keep writing until it’s done (hopefully sometime before Christmas), and I’ll have some kind of postmortem for you then. Right now, I’m still too close to the whole thing to really talk about it much.

But it’s going well! I don’t hate the story, the concept of writing, or the world in general. (Or… I kind of do, but that’s not related to my writing. I’ll get back to that in a minute.) So that’s good!

Still, like I said: it doesn’t leave me with much to talk about. I’ve been chipping away at the 52 week photo project, but my heart hasn’t really been in it, and I haven’t been doing much other photography. I haven’t been drawing at all, my sewing project is on hold, and my painting is still more of an idea than an actual thing.

Despite all that, I’m feeling pretty good, creatively.

Over the past month, my motivation has kicked into overdrive. Some of that has to do with NaNoWriMo itself (and I’ll go into those specifics in my postmortem), some of it is because I’m starting to learn more about what motivates me and how to make it work, even when I don’t feel all that inspired. And… some of it is a direct result of the US election.

I’m angry. I’m heartbroken. I’m scared for the future.

I know that those same feelings have made it difficult for others to think about making any kind of art. (I’ve seen so many people who gave up on NaNo altogether after the election.) And that makes sense. When I heard the news on November 9, I kind of expected the same thing.

But that’s not what happened.

For me, the anger and heartbreak and fear is turning into fuel.

I believe in art as a disruptive force. I believe in art as an act of resistance, and of defiance. I believe that art and stories can both document and shape the culture.

And I believe that we need that right now.

So, that’s where I am: committed to telling stories and taking pictures and making art that represents the world I believe in—messy and beautiful and complicated and diverse. I’m feeling more motivated now than ever before.

So. What comes next?

My first goal in December is to get to “the end” in this particular story. It’s seriously flawed, but the foundation is good, and I’m really happy with the writing routine I’ve managed to create this month. It feels like something I can sustain, maybe even around the holidays.

But let’s be honest: that’s probably wishful thinking, especially with everything I’ve been neglecting in November. I still have to get back to work on my photo project (even though my mind is already moving on to other projects), and I am absolutely determined to finish my painting and sewing projects before the end of the year. And I’m still hopeful that I’m going to get my portfolio updated by Christmas. (I can do some of it, but I might not finish.)

Regardless of how the rest of the year goes, I’m already starting to think about 2017.

It’s going to be interesting.

Snapshot #64 | 10 Things for 20 November 2016

Personal

Currently…

1. making… progress on my NaNoWriMo story. The first act is kind of a disaster (and will need to be rewritten from scratch), but it’s slowly starting to turn into the story that I imagined when I was outlining. (… Although. There are still issues, and while some of these scenes are nearly perfect, I’m probably still going to have to rewrite the entire thing from scratch. So.)
2. chipping… away at my weekly photo project, however slowly.
3. falling… behind on… just about everything else, to be honest. NaNo has taken over my life. Which is good, but I’m hoping to find some kind of balance again in December.
4. finalizing… my holiday baking plans.
5. craving… coffee.
6. listening… to a lot of Leonard Cohen. (sigh. Seriously, 2016?)
7. slipping… back into one (very minor) bad habit. I think I’ve needed the distraction, actually.
8. processing… the US election. Still. I think it’s going to take a while.
9. trying… to remember what else has been going on. Seriously, all I do lately is write.
10. thinking… about my plans for 2017 (and beyond). Despite everything, I’m feeling weirdly… I don’t know if “optimistic” is the right word. Let’s go for “motivated.”

Snapshot #54 | 10 Things for 3 July 2016

Personal

Currently…

1. changing… one big plot point in my NaNoWriMo outline. It completely changes the story, and it’s going to be so much better.
2. getting… up at a truly absurd hour to go take pictures. (I was finished and back home by 6:30. In the morning. On a Saturday.)
3. making… my first batch of ice cream of the year. (Chocolate. Obviously. Recipe from the Big Gay Ice Cream cookbook. ♥)
4. doing… some slightly-belated spring cleaning around here.
5. feeling… heartbroken over the Brexit vote. I’m a pretty serious anglophile, and I’m sad and scared to think about what might be happening to the UK.
6. drinking… iced coffee. It’s finally summer.
7. eating… strawberries.
8. trying… to find solutions to my creative ennui. I think I’m making progress, but it’s hard to say just yet.
9. reaching… the point where I either have to find something to do with my hair, or chop it off. Wearing it down all the time just isn’t working with this weather.
10. filling… sketchbooks.

Snapshot #44 | 10 Things for 14 February 2016

Personal

Currently…

1. getting… ready for a serious planning session.
2. using… my Twitter client’s ‘mute’ function so much. (And looking forward to using it even more as the US election cycle drags on….)
3. painting… the office. Finally. It’s still going to be a while before the room looks like I want it to (I don’t even have the furniture back in place), but even just painting—and the decluttering that went along with it—has been a huge improvement.
4. feeling… tired. I tend to forget how much work is involved in painting a room.
5. starting… the search for new conditioner. It looks like my go-to has been discontinued, so I have to start reading labels again…. ::sigh::
6. loving… Habitica. Part game, part my new favourite to-do list app.
7. waiting… to get the cable fixed.
8. falling… behind on some of my non-room-painting projects.
9. fine-tuning… some of my routines. And still thinking that I need to get out of some routines.
10. wondering… whether I’m going to get a chance to bake anything this weekend. I want to, but… painting.

Snapshot #36 | 10 Things for 25 October 2015

Personal

Currently…

1. exploring… a new city. Love.
2. feeling… good about the election results. I didn’t vote for the Liberals (I’d planned to, but they lost me when they supported Bill C-51), but their win doesn’t bother me at all. It was the first time in ages that I woke up the morning after an election and wasn’t depressed.
3. thinking… about the cupcakes I’m going to make later this week.
4. getting… (almost) everything done on time.
5. reminding… myself to breathe.
6. making… some really good photographs. Not just on this trip. It’s been a good month.
7. trying… to be good, but I could easily—and happily—survive this entire weekend on nothing but coffee and bagels. I wouldn’t even feel guilty about it, with all the walking I’m doing. But I should probably eat something else.
8. living… in the future. Not a Back to the Future thing, just a realization.
9. reading… three books at once, and I need to get through them before I let myself tackle the one on my bedside table. (Which I’m really looking forward to.)
10. hoping… that my planning pays off.