Rosehips in the snow. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

A brief scheduling note.

Admin

Things are going to be slow around here for the next two weeks. Regularly scheduled programming (snapshots, inspired) will continue as usual, and I’m not disappearing entirely, but I won’t be around very much, and there probably won’t be any posts outside the regular ones.

I’ll be back on January 7. In the meantime, Happy Holidays if you celebrate! I hope you have a fantastic few weeks!

Sketchbook #22

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

I knew going in that April wasn’t going to be a very productive month. There were a million little disruptions to my schedule (this is actually the first full, uninterrupted week I’ve had this month), but I’d planned for them, and I’ve (mostly) been able to work around them.

The story outlines are progressing nicely; I still really love having two different projects on the go. It slows both of them down, of course, but it’s fantastic being able to switch from one to the other when inspiration starts to flag. (And inspiration always starts to flag at some point. It’s inevitable.) For now, I’ve pretty much abandoned the daily freewriting that I was trying—I still haven’t found a way to make it work.

And I’m still looking for another writing project, something low-pressure to work on in my downtime, and that doesn’t require months of world building and outlining. It’s… surprisingly difficult. I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing that’s quite clicked for me yet.

But, yeah: it’s been a pretty good month, despite everything.

Anyway. Photography!

I’m actually really happy with how that’s going this month. The 365 project is still my main focus (though that’s going to start to change, now that the weather is improving) and I don’t think I’ve used a real camera for any of this month’s photos, but I am genuinely proud of some of the photos I’ve taken this month.

In some ways, I kind of like the limitations imposed by using my phone for so many of the pictures. On good days, I start off with an image in my head that I want to create, but I’m still kind of lazy about the whole thing. I could pull out the DSLR and tripod and choose the perfect lens and wait for the perfect lighting. And I’d be pretty much guaranteed to get the shot I’m imagining.

But most of the time, I can’t be bothered. This is supposed to be a quick-and-easy project, and most of the time, I just want to grab my phone and take the picture. Which actually makes me work harder to get the photo I want, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all and I have to come up with an entirely new plan, or I end up with a happy accident that’s so much better than the photo I’d planned.

That’s the good stuff.

I’m struggling with drawing lately. Or… not struggling, exactly. I’m just not feeling it lately. Part of the problem is that I don’t feel like I’ve got a goal to work towards, or at least not one that I can define. ‘Get better at drawing’ (or even ‘get better at drawing people’) is ok, but… it’s kind of vague. I don’t have a specific project to work on, or a reason to want to improve.

At the same time, I’ve been thinking about how I spend my time. Lately, it feels like I’m being “productive”—I’m checking everything off my to-do list—but I’m not actually doing the things I want to be doing. Some of it is kind of obvious (I’m really hating the entire concept of grocery shopping right now), but some of it is just a matter of focussing on the wrong things. And drawing might fall into that category. I’m not sure if all this practice is because I want to draw, or because I kind of want to be someone who can draw. (If that makes sense? I don’t know if it does.)

I need to think about it some more.

And the sewing project that’s been on my list since last fall, and that I’ve been working on since sometime near the beginning of this year… hasn’t gone well. It seemed like it was going well. I was all ready to finish up the assembly. And then it just… didn’t work.

It’s entirely my fault. It’s weirdly complicated for what amounts to a tote bag, and I’ve been improvising the whole thing. In the end, the pieces just didn’t come together the way I’d been picturing.

I’m not sure if I can salvage it, or if I can even make the project work at all the way I’d been planning. I do know that I can make a simpler version of the bag, but… meh. I’ve set the whole thing aside for a while, but I’ll probably come back to it eventually.

So… yeah.

The things that went well in April went really well, and the things that didn’t go well… I’d rather just forget about entirely.

The good thing is, May isn’t nearly the scheduling disaster that April was. I’ve got time. I fully expect to start writing the next draft of the NaNoWriMo novel, and I feel like it’ll move fairly quickly once I start. (I probably just jinxed it, didn’t I?) I’ll be able to really dig into the outline and research for the next story. I’m ready to start work on the painting that’s been kinda-sorta in the works for a couple of years, and I’ve been thinking about a couple others. I’m finally starting to feel inspired photographically, and excuses to get out and take pictures.

And I’ve got some time to think, and to play with my daily schedule a bit. There are things I want to do, with both writing and photography, and I need to figure out how to make them happen.

Snapshot #73 | 10 Things for 26 March 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. wishing… that grocery delivery was an option in my area. It would be so helpful.
2. having… kind of a weird week. Nothing major, just… random daydreams and a lot of internal debates that don’t actually go anywhere. 😐
3. loving… this TED Talk. (This one was good too, but in a slightly-depressing kind of way.)
4. thinking… about alternatives to Evernote. I’ve loved the app since 2009, but… ugh. I hate the most recent iOS version. I’ve accepted a few minor annoyances over the last little while, but it might be time to switch.
5. wanting… a change of scene. I keep finding myself browsing airfares. And apartment listings in cities I’ve never visited. Or just wondering how practical it would be to swap my bedroom for the office. (Not very.)
6. starting… to outline the second draft of the NaNoWriMo story. (Have I mentioned that I’m basically rewriting the entire thing from scratch? Because I’m basically rewriting the entire thing from scratch.)
7. buying… the supplies I need to finish up that bag I’ve been making. Finally!
8. getting… annoyed. I’m looking at non-specific schedule disruptions for the next week and a half, and it’s throwing me off my game.
9. trying… to get focussed. (See numbers 2, 5, and 8.)
10. hoping… that the weather evens out soon. I am ready for spring. (I probably said the same thing last week, didn’t I?)

Snapshot #63 | 10 Things for 6 November 2016

Personal

Currently…

1. trying… to survive NaNoWriMo. It’s… interesting. Not quite sure how I feel about my progress. (Of course, as I type this, I’m taking a quick break from my daily writing, and it’s not going great. Which is why I’m feeling ambivalent.)
2. working… on that whole 52-week photo project. Still. I promise. I’m just trying to catch up on some other things, too, and haven’t been able to post my progress.
3. daydreaming… about travel. Always.
4. wishing… that the boots I fell in love with actually fit properly.
5. baking… cookies and cupcakes, because Hallowe’en. ♥
6. feeling… sleepy.
7. making… to-do lists. So many lists.
8. figuring… out my work process and creative routines. It’s been a bit of a struggle—and I haven’t always been successful—but it’s starting to fall into place.
9. buying… more new workout gear. Still feeling like a sci-fi ninja.
10. hoping… that the weather starts cooperating soon.

Sketchbook #16

Productivity, Writing

Ok, so: July and August were kind of terrible, creatively. I’ve acknowledged that and moved past it. It happens occasionally—both due to my own issues, and things beyond my control—and I just have to deal with it.

I went into September with modest goals: I wanted to get back on track, and dig myself out of the rut that I’d been in all summer. I wanted to see if I could find ways to motivate myself, rather than relying on inspiration to just happen. I wanted to work on clearing my weekly photo backlog, and see if I could make some progress on the NaNoWriMo outline, but I didn’t set any specific targets—any movement would be good, as long as it was forward.

So how’d I do?

Not terrible? I mean, it’s a bit tricky to measure this sort of thing when I intentionally didn’t set any clear guidelines for myself.

I’ve started (slowly) working on the weekly photo project again, and chipping away at those missed prompts. I’m still really behind schedule (and, as I said the other day, it would be easier if I wasn’t adding to the list every week, but, well, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?), but I’ve been working on it, and I’ll have even more pictures ready in the next little while. I don’t quite have a good workflow with the new computer, yet—I’d like to make some changes from the way I handled things before, but I’m still working on what those changes actually are.

Still: progress.

Writing… is still going slowly. I’m finally hitting a daily word count that I’m happy with: not quite enough for NaNoWriMo, but perfectly acceptable when the deadline isn’t quite that ridiculous. That’s nice. I’ve only made a little progress on the NaNoWriMo outline, but I’m starting to build momentum again, and I’ve got a pretty good plan-of-attack to get the outline actually done. I’m starting to feel like I might be ready to go when November rolls around.

I have discovered that the new computer—more specifically, the increased screen size—really changes the way I write. I tend to write my first drafts in plain text (or Markdown), using a lightweight text editor; it’s easy, portable, and doesn’t lock me into any particular system. And on my old 13-inch MacBook Pro, it served as a pretty good distraction-free writing environment. But it’s just not working for me on the new screen; the window’s either too small, or it’s a huge, intimidating blank page with no real margins. I’m trying out a few alternatives. With luck, I’ll find something that clicks with the way I like to work.

Really, though, even though it’s not a lot of progress, I am feeling pretty good about both writing and photography right now. Better than I was feeling this time last month, at least.

Now. Drawing… I’m still just going through the motions, there. I’m trying not to worry about it too much—I’ve always intended it to be a hobby, and not another source of stress—but it’s still a bit draining. The trouble is, I feel like I’m still in the skill-building stage of things; there’s a lot of practice, but very little real creativity right now, which makes it less fun than it could be. (Especially, since, you know, it’s a hobby. It should be fun.) It might be time to switch things up again, go back to figure drawing for a while and see if that helps.

Which brings us to my plans for October.

Obviously, my NaNoWriMo outline is my priority. I have one month before I actually have to write this thing. I’m fully confident, now, that I can hit the target as far as word-count goes. So that’s good. And, while I’m nowhere near ready to start writing right now, I’m pretty sure I can get there in time. As long as I can stay focussed and do the work.

The good thing is, I do think I’ve finally figured out what motivates me, and how to harness that energy when I need it. Anxiety and perfectionism are still issues, but I’m starting to figure out how to work through them—maybe even (dare I say it?) channel that energy into motivation—rather than let them paralyze me. Between that and (finally!) getting back into the habit of working at my desk in the office rather than literally anywhere else in the apartment, I’m starting to get my schedule under control and keep myself from getting too distracted.

So I should be able to get the outline done in time.

That’s my priority, but I don’t want to lose my momentum with photography, either. I’ve got quite a few new photos waiting to be edited, both for the weekly project and otherwise, and I’ve got plans to tackle some more of the backlog. If I can get (mostly) caught up before November, it’ll make writing the novel a lot less stressful.

And, because I’m me, and because it’s starting to feel like the year is winding down, I’m starting to think ahead to 2017. I’m already planning next year’s photo project (taking into account the problems that arose this year and the things I’d like to accomplish), and thinking about the changes I’d like to make. As I said, I’ve begun making some changes to my daily schedule, and I’m hoping to fine-tune those changes so I can start 2017 with a routine that I like and that works for me. (I’ve also got a new monthly feature here on the blog that was originally going to launch early next year, but I don’t want to wait that long; it’ll debut later this week.)

In short, my plan for next month—and the rest of the year—is all about getting back to work. Not just getting back to where I was before the old computer decided to die on me, but using the changes and the things I’m figuring out about myself to actually do the work I’ve wanted to do all along.

Snapshot #13 | 10 Things for 23 November 2014

Personal

Currently…

1. feeling… cold. And sleepy.
2. playing… with my new camera. It’s gorgeous and I love it.
3. working… on A Thing. It’s going well. More later. (Soon later… probably this week.)
4. trying… to get back on track.
5. exploring… The Creator Class.
6. wishing… for one normal, uninterrupted week. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have something screwing up my schedule, and it’s starting to get to me.
7. getting… things in order for the holidays.
8. making… big plans for the new year.
9. cleaning… up the garden for the winter. 😦
10. falling… behind schedule.

Change of scene.

Admin, Personal

This is going to be a slow week, I’m afraid. And, yes. I realize I’m telling you this on Thursday.

I’m deep into a decorating project: new paint (and a beige this pale and boring should not be this difficult to cover), new furniture, everything. It’s kind of fantastic: all the fun parts of moving, without any of the truly awful bits. Though I am picking up a surprising number of bruises, and I needed to take today off because I’ve been too exhausted to form a coherent thought since Monday.

I’m having fun. And I’m not being sarcastic.

There will be pictures at some point in the future. I’m still waiting on one delivery, and I’m still agonizing about art, and there are still a million little details that I have to get to, so it won’t be soon, but it will happen eventually. In the meantime, I should be far enough along that regular programming will resume here this weekend.

I lost my motivation. This is how I’m finding it again.

Productivity

It’s not exactly a secret that I’ve been struggling with motivation lately.

Part of it is still fear, the tendency to fall in love with my ideas, and then worry that I can’t pull them off. But that’s easier to manage, now that I’ve identified the problem. The bigger issue right now is simply inertia, and time management. Over the last few months—as my goals have shifted, and as I’ve prepared for the move, and recovered from the move—my entire creative routine has fallen apart. It’s become a habit to sit at the computer and do nothing (or worse, do the sort of busywork that feels productive, but doesn’t really accomplish anything).

There are people out there who don’t have this problem. If they want to break a routine, or build a new habit, they just do, and they can’t see why it’s so difficult for the rest of us. I admire those people, but I’m not one of them. I have to work to break my habits.

But I’m trying. And, as with the fear, knowing what the problem is makes it easier to solve.

So, over the last few weeks and into the next, this is what I’m doing:

  1. Figure out what I want to do. I don’t mean my big ambitions or plans, I mean every day. The specifics. How do I want to spend my time? What do I want to do instead of sighing over perfect interiors on Pinterest or reading endless articles about productivity? (This is surprisingly difficult. I know exactly what I want to do with my life, but it took some time to figure out what I want to do day-to-day.)
  2. Make a schedule. How much time do I actually have in the day? How much time to I need to dedicate to each of the things I really want to do, in order to feel like I’m accomplishing something? Then figure out how to make the time I want work with the time I have. Write it down.
  3. Try it out. Tweak it until it works. This is the stage I’m at now. As in anything, the first draft wasn’t very good—I tend to get over-ambitious, and the first day or so was overwhelming—but it’s getting better. (I did scrap my whole plan for yesterday in favour of grabbing coffee with a friend, but… sometimes that’s necessary, too.)

All of this is pretty basic ‘fake it ’til you make it’ kind of stuff. The motivation is lacking, so, yeah: I’m just making myself do the work. Sometimes you have to. And it starts turning into real motivation right about here:

  1. Track my progress. This is something I do anyway, just as a matter of course. I track time, and word counts, and… everything, really. You can’t change anything if you can’t measure the change. (Some things are easier to track than others, of course. For more subjective changes, you have to find the criteria that matter to you, or maybe just focus on time spent, which, if it’s spent well will translate to real progress.) And seeing the change, for me, turns into its own reward: I start competing with myself, trying to spend more time on the things that matter, trying to get just a little bit better.

So, that’s my plan. It’s not magic, it’s not even easy, and it won’t work for everyone. But it seems to be working for me, and that’s enough.

Programming Notice

Admin

Just a quick note to let you know that posting will be a bit sporadic for the next little while.

I know. I only just launched, and I need to take a break already. Bear with me. In three weeks, I’m moving to a new (fantastic) apartment. It was a bit unexpected; we’d been planning to move sometime this year anyway, but then this place came up, so it’s all happening a lot faster than we’d expected. And as of yesterday, I’m down with my second cold since January. Either one of those things (probably) could have happened without too much of an interruption here, but with both of them… something’s got to give. And I’d rather it wasn’t me.

I’m going to try to get a few things up over the next couple of weeks, but it’s all dependent on how much energy and time I have. I have a tendency to push myself too hard in cases like this, but I’m going to try not to do that this time.

Normal posting will resume once everything’s settled again.