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.)
… well, that was a month, wasn’t it?
Leaving aside NaNoWriMo for now (since I’ve been talking about it all month, and I’ll be talking about it even more on Friday; but if you do want a recap: the story has been fighting me, but I made it through), it… wasn’t too bad.
Not great, obviously. I didn’t get to work on a lot of things that I’d hoped to spend time on in November, like the next round of revisions on The Black Sun. Or photography.
But last month, I said that my mission for November was to sit down and think about what I really want to accomplish, in both writing and photography. Everything else aside, if I did that - or if I made significant progress with that - the month would be a good one.
It’s been two months since I did a general update on how all my creative projects are going, so I’ve got a lot of ground to cover today. And since this day is already shaping up to be kind of awful (they’re rebuilding the balcony below mine, which means noisy generators and sawing through concrete, I’ve got my first serious cold of the season and so my attention span is pretty much nonexistent, and they’re going to be testing the fire alarms at some point today, and that’s always a joy), I’m going to try to make it quick.
When I did my last update, back in August, I was… going through some stuff.
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.
I’ll be honest: the heatwave has been awful for my motivation this month. I haven’t wanted to do anything but hide indoors and stare at my phone. (Even watching a movie or reading has felt like it required too much energy the last few weeks.)
My goals going into July were to write (including outlining and editing) more days than not, and to keep going with my photography project. I wanted to make it another 1/3 of the way through editing The Black Sun, and make a good start on the Violet Lane outline. And I wanted to start carrying a real camera more often.
We’re officially half-way through the year. Or we will be in a few days.
I’m mostly saying that to remind myself, because it feels like 2018 is never going to end. It feels like we’ve been stuck in 2018 for three years already, it will always be 2018, this is our life now. This is an impossible year in which to write, or look for beauty, or make art in general. June in particular has been a difficult month - in light of the news, it’s hard not to feel like this is all a little bit shallow.
But art - writing and photography - is what’s keeping me sane this month. This year.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into May.
I finished April feeling good about how I was approaching my goals. I was feeling really good about the first draft of The Black Sun and my writing routine in general, but not so great about Violet Lane. And kind of awful about my photography. And I wasn’t exactly clear on my goals for May; I knew I wanted to keep moving forward, but beyond that…?
So I have no real metrics with which to judge May. Vague emotional impressions, it is!
I had one big goal in April: to get over the ennui and inertia of March and find my focus again. (So… nothing too big, then?)
I think I succeeded. Mostly.
The first step was reviewing and revising my long-term goals, and figuring out how to keep them top-of-mind. And that’s actually been the biggest change I’ve made this month: I’ve completely changed the way I set and keep track of my goals, and I’m working to modify the ways I juggle day-to-day tasks and projects. I’ve taken some big steps, but the whole thing still feels very much like a work-in-progress; I’m still making little changes, and figuring out the flaws in my new systems, but I do feel like I’m (finally) on the right track. (I’ll go into more detail later, once I’ve ironed out the kinks. The whole thing feels like it merits its own post.)
That’s the general. And I’ll be honest: the general is working better than the specific for me right now.
When it comes to the big picture, I have a three-month attention span.
It takes three months for that initial burst of energy and enthusiasm to fade.
It takes three months to lose sight of my big goals, and get bored with the day-to-day grind required to achieve them. Three months to start to question whether those goals are actually possible, and whether I’ve got the drive to see them through. Three months to start thinking ’I don’t feel like writing today. I’ll make it up tomorrow.’
In other words, March was difficult.
February was one of those months that just… didn’t work for me. That one week in the middle - something like a vacation, but not quite - threw me off my game for the entire month. I had a hard time being productive the week before (because I knew I’d be taking a break, so I didn’t want to build momentum only to lose it again), and I struggled to find my stride again after.
I really need to find a way to work around interruptions like that. They’re a real struggle for me, and I’ve never been able to figure out a way to integrate them into my creative process.