Snapshot #149 | 10 Things for 22 March 2020

Personal

The social distancing edition! Currently…

1. regretting… the decision to walk home from the supermarket with two weeks’ worth of groceries. (I’m not obsessively stockpiling, but I am trying to reduce my trips out.) I have a really good rolling cart, but still.
2. cutting… back on my social media and news consumption. A lot.
3. realizing… (again) that I own way too much stuff. I tried to rearrange a closet and… ugh.
4. wanting… to bake something, but again… not sure what.
5. trying… to trick the cat into cuddling. (I love her, but Lucy’s not the most demonstrative girl unless there’s food involved.)
6. feeling… thankful that I didn’t decide, back in December (when I would’ve had to give notice), that this was the year to find a new apartment. Moving right now would be awful.
7. finishing… the most recent draft of Violet Lane!
8. wishing… the mornings would warm up enough to go for a run. (How did I become this person?)
9. keeping… my anxiety in check. Mostly.
10. ordering… a new coffee maker, because mine decided—after fifteen years—that this would be the perfect week to give up the ghost. (I mean… I have others. The situation isn’t desperate. But I do need a drip machine for that first cup of the morning.)

Black and white photo of an open notebook with the year '2020' and word 'grit' written on the first page. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

2020 in Preview

Art + Craft, Personal, Photography, Writing

The year—the decade—isn’t even two weeks old and it’s already testing my optimism. I keep sitting down to write this post, and I just stare at the blinking cursor, trying to figure out what to say about my goals for the new year, trying to figure out how to say that I’m still hopeful. That despite everything, my goals for this year are more ambitious than they have been for the last few.

But maybe that makes sense. Everything’s terrible, so why not take some risks? This isn’t a year for ‘find a hobby’ or ‘build a sustainable writing routine.’ That was about building a foundation. This is a year to make some real, concrete changes. 

I’m not going to go into all of them here. Some are obvious and don’t need further explanation (finally get that photo thing off the ground, finish Violet Lane, keep querying), some are too personal, some just aren’t within the (current) scope of this blog. Some I’ll talk about later, but I just want to keep them to myself for now. 

But there are a few things I do want to publicly commit to:

Focus on improving my craft.

I said back in September that I felt l like I’ve hit a plateau when it comes to my skill, both as a writer and a photographer. That feeling hasn’t gone away.

Like I said then: it’s normal. And, really, I wouldn’t want to be satisfied creatively—I think an artist’s vision should always exceed their skill, at least a bit. It’s not that I think I’m a bad writer or photographer, I’m just not where I’d like to be, and it’s time to level up.

I’m not 100% sure about my game plan, here.

I know I want to work on building my technical skills, whether that means studying the writing books I’ve collected over the years, or working on specific photo projects, or taking classes, or something I haven’t thought of yet. 

I want to do more work—I want to take more photos and spend more time writing. I’ve done well, building a sustainable practice, but it’s time to expand on that. I need to be careful not to push too hard—burnout is always a real risk for me—but the pace I usually work at now doesn’t allow for much growth. 

And I want to build my creative confidence. I don’t (just) mean when it comes to sharing my work—I’m getting better at that, even though it’s still difficult. I want to be braver in the work that I create; I want to stop holding myself back from taking the photographs I want to take, or writing the stories I want to write. This is a process, and I don’t expect it to be a quick one, but it’s something I need to do.

So, yeah: not exactly a clear plan, but at least my goals are clear. I’ve got time to figure out how to get there.

Reevaluate my relationship with social media.

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while, and I’ve come to some conclusions:

  1. Instagram and Twitter are terrible distractions that make it harder to focus on the work I want to be doing.
  2. Facebook and Twitter are actively harming society and chipping away at democracy, and the people in charge embrace it because it’s lining their pockets. (Instagram itself isn’t as terrible on that front, but the ad revenue still goes to Facebook.)
  3. I’m sick of Facebook’s constant presence. I’m not even on Facebook, and I can’t get away from it. It’s creepy
  4. I miss blogs. I miss the old internet, back when it felt fun and creative and serendipitous. Back when it was still weird.
  5. Instagram is one of the things that has stalled my progress as a photographer. Yes, it’s helped in some ways, but it rewards sameness rather than creativity, and it’s hard not to play to that.

Any one of those is reason to jump ship—taken together, I’ve reached a point where it’s hard to justify my presence. At the same time, there’s part of me that feels like I need to be on those networks, for personal or professional reasons. I feel genuinely guilty when I don’t post to Instagram or Twitter for a few days, and I hate it.

So this year, I’m going to figure out a solution. I’m probably going to step back from the services that bother me most, or abandon them completely. I’ve already taken some steps in that direction, curating my feeds a bit, and I’ve already left Pinterest (they finally made it too difficult to avoid the cluttered home feed).

I’m definitely going to breathe some real life into this blog, rather than relying on those other services. (I might go back to the self-hosted version of WordPress, to get back a little control with that, but my account is paid up until the fall, so I’ve got time to think about it.) 


Mostly, though, my goals for 2020—writing and photographic and personal—are summed up in the watchword I’ve chosen: grit.

Very few of the things I want to do this year are going to be easy. And it’s going to be a difficult year, just in general. (I didn’t know how difficult when I started thinking about my plans, but… well.) I’m going to to be tempted to give up, or slack off, or set my sights lower.

“Grit” is what’s going to keep me going.

Black and white photo of tulips in a glass vase. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

Project366: #261-270

Photography

Less than one hundred days left to go in this particular project, and I’m starting to wonder what comes next.

I know that this sort of daily project does wonders for my photography. I’m proud of some of the photos I’ve taken over the last ten months, and I know that they wouldn’t have happened without the commitment I made to post something new every single day. I wouldn’t have gotten into the habit of carrying a real camera so often, and probably would gone days or weeks without taking a photo. (Just look at 2018.)

And yet.

Snapshot #108 | 10 Things for 26 August 2018

Personal

Currently…

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.)

Inspired | June 2018

Links

Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in June.

The Key Book Publishing Paths: 2018 by Jane Friedman: a downloadable chart detailing the most common publishing options

The 430 Books in Marilyn Monroe’s Library: How Many Have You Read? by Ayun Halliday

A study on the financial state of visual artists today by The Creative Independent: “With this report, we hope to paint a clearer picture of how structures of the art world work (or don’t work) to grow artists’ careers, help them earn a living, and satisfy their overall human needs.”

The Perfect Photo: Myth or Reality? by Emily Ludolph: “As creators, we can spend hours fine-tuning the tiniest details until we deem our end result “perfect.” But is there really such a thing as perfection when it comes to creativity?”

Why photojournalism matters by Elodie Mailliet Storm: “This image is the result of ten years of John’s work documenting the U.S. Mexican border, way before it increasingly became “news” under the new Administration.”

How Instagram’s algorithm works by Josh Constine

Why Photography’s B&W vs Color Debate Is No Debate At All by Lars Mensel: “Just as black and white now looks reduced to our eyes, color must have seemed gaudy to the photographers of the 1950s: It looked like embellishment.”

How everything on the internet became clickbait by Kevin Munger (via Now I Know, which I highly recommend subscribing to.)

This setup is perfect for people motivated primarily by diversion and duty — anyone with an internet connection has access to more high-quality information sources than Harvard professors 50 years ago could have dreamed of. It turns out that there just aren’t many people who want to take advantage of that; most of us are more into drama and display.

#BotSpot: Twelve Ways to Spot a Bot by Ben Nimmo: Some tricks to identify fake Twitter accounts

You Have to Fail a Little by Melissa Baumgart: “When I am flailing in my writing, certain I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, I put on Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse to remind myself that however bad it gets, it’s not as rough as being Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Apocalypse Now.”

The Hidden Queer History Behind “A League of Their Own” by Britni de la Cretaz: “By not including a gay character’s story in “A League of Their Own,” the film does to the history of the league what the owners tried to do its existence—erase lesbians from the narrative.”

What’s the most interesting thing you saw online this month?

Inspired | January 2018

Links

I thought that this was going to be a new monthly feature for the blog, but it’s really just a revamp of one that I let slide two years ago. This time, instead of sharing one cool thing every week, I’ll be doing a monthly roundup of all the things (articles, videos, et cetera) that I can’t stop thinking about. Enjoy!

Learning to Write Fluffy, Glittery Violence from My Little Pony by Seanan McGuire

You could get away with anything, if you made it fluffy and pink enough. You could destroy the whole world, as long as you were willing to cover it in glitter first.

Oh, this was going to be fun.

How Comic Book Storytelling is Changing Movies by Patrick (H) Willems (via TMS)

Do You Want to Be Known For Your Writing, or For Your Swift Email Responses? by Melissa Febos: How Patriarchy Has Fucked Up Your Priorities

The Organized Writer by Antony Johnston

Meet the original single lady, who wrote the book on living alone by Laura Smith: Marjorie Hillis was the “spinster-in-chief” who showed women that they could make it on their own

Frances Glessner Lee revolutionized forensic science by building mini crime scenes an excerpt from ‘BRAZEN: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World’ by Pénélope Bagieu

I Choose My Pearls: On Feminism, Fashion, and Disneyland by Tabitha Blankenbiller

Women don’t need laws to repress their fashion, comfort, identity, or preference. Our society’s deft ability to shame does all the heavy lifting. Frontierland Feminist didn’t dismantle a patriarchal demand to regulate clothing; she picked up the baton.

Losing its sparkle: the dark side of glitter by Ellie Violet Bramley

Twitter’s Great Depression by Mike Monteiro

The Incredible Possibility of a Year by Paul Jun

You’re Most Likely to Do Something Extreme Right Before You Turn 30 by Daniel H. Pink (via The Art of Non-Conformity)

Growing apart and losing touch is human and healthy by DHH

What allowed me to change and prosper was the freedom to grow apart and lose touch with people. It’s hard to change yourself if you’re stuck in the same social orbit. There’s a gravitational force that pulls you into repeating the same circular pattern over and over again. Breaking out of that takes tremendous force.

• My inner 15-year-old just found her new favourite band:

Snapshot #93 | 10 Things for 28 January 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. feeling… restless. There’s been a lot of daydreaming about tiny studio apartments and Airstream trailers lately.
2. wearing… the fingerless gloves I got for Christmas. I love them.
3. rethinking… pretty much all of my social media use.
4. discovering… that my hair is finally long enough for a decent messy bun, just at the moment when I’d decided it was time to chop it all off. Now I’m torn… I like the idea of being able to do something with my hair, but history shows that when it gets this long, I’ll just get annoyed and throw it into a ponytail.
5. learning… how to use my AeroPress. 🖤
6. preparing… a new regular feature for the blog. I think it’s going to launch on Wednesday.
7. trying… to rebuild my habit of watching at least one new-to-me movie a week.
8. waiting… for the specific bulletin board I want (have I mentioned that I’m really picky? Because I’m really picky) to come back in stock. I’m literally checking the website twice a day. It’s absurd.
9. getting… back into the routines I put on hold back in November.
10. debating… whether or not to rearrange all my books by colour. I need to do something with my bookshelves, but I don’t know what. (Exciting, right?)

Sketchbook #20

Productivity, Writing

Let me start by saying: February was a strange month. It was filled with schedule disruptions (so much snow), and motivational lulls, and the weird feeling that comes with being between writing projects (I’d forgotten that that feeling even exists.) It’s one of those months that feels like I didn’t accomplish anything at all.

My goal for the month was to prioritize my creativity. And… I’ve done that, as much as those schedule disruptions could allow. I’ve stopped checking news and social media before my work is done for the day, and that’s been nothing but good. It was really difficult for the first few days, but that was it—I’ve successfully broken the habit, and when I do read the news or check Twitter, it’s intentional. It doesn’t interfere with my work, and I’m not spending all day simmering with anger over the latest outrage.

(That said… I’m not posting to Twitter quite as much as I’d like. But that’s probably unavoidable.)

However.

I haven’t eliminated, or even minimized, the other distractions that I’ve been dealing with lately. If anything, cutting out news and social media has made me more aware of those other distractions, and more aware of how I really want to be spending my time. But I’m not too worried. Taking care of those things one at a time, and replacing them with better habits, is probably more effective in the long run than trying to change my entire routine all at once.

And, really, I have accomplished quite a bit this month. I’ve made real progress on the sewing project that’s been on my list since sometime last year. (I’ll probably be putting the finishing touches on this week, and then I’ll be ready to show it to you. I’m thrilled with how it’s turning out.) The daily photo project is still going strong, even when I’m not feeling particularly inspired. (I know I’ve said this before, but: I am really glad that I didn’t give myself any kind of rules for this project. I know it would have crashed and burned by now if I was trying to do anything more involved than “one photo a day that doesn’t completely suck.”)

And I’ve decided on my next writing project! I’m still in the very early stages of planning, and it’s going to require a massive amount of prep work (more research and worldbuilding than I’ve had to do in years, even before I took my break from writing), but… it’s interesting. I’m so excited to get to work on it. I’m not sure when I’m actually going to be ready to start writing (I keep thinking I should set some kind of deadline for myself, just so I don’t get too bogged down in prep), but I’m not going to rush it. I’m just about ready to reread my NaNoWriMo draft, and start making my plans for the rewrite, so even if I don’t start writing the new story until this November, I’m still going to have something to work on.

So, yeah. Despite everything, it wasn’t a terrible month. Not as great as I’d hoped, but… not terrible.

My goal for March is to get back on track. Eliminate a few more of those distractions I mentioned, and replace them with better systems. Finish the sewing project. Start digging into the NaNo story again, and start really working on the next one. Focus on the work I want to be doing.

Snapshot #70 | 10 Things for 12 February 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. updating… my portfolio. Finally. I’ve still got a little bit of work to add (and I’ll let you know when it’s done), but for now: progress!
2. starting… to make the tote bag that’s been on my list for about six months.
3. making… plans. (I’ve got a tendency to say this a lot, I know. But it’s a good catch-all for all the projects I’m really excited about but can’t really talk about.)
4. getting… used to my new social media rules. It’s doing wonders for my creativity (and productivity).
5. choosing… which writing project to work on next. It’s going to be so much fun. And I need to do so much worldbuilding.
6. trying… a new bread recipe.
7. craving… cheesecake. I don’t know why. (I also don’t know why there isn’t any place near me that sells single slices of cheesecake.)
8. wondering… if the snowstorm is going to interfere with my plans tomorrow. (Probably.) (Definitely.)
9. shopping… for makeup… it’s equal parts fun and torture.
10. researching… everything I need to know for the next writing project (and the second draft of the NaNoWriMo story). It’s a little overwhelming, in a good way.