Sketchbook #52

Photography, Writing

“I’m looking forward to March,” I said. “It’s going to be a good month,” I said.

Wow. So… I should know better than to tempt fate like that, I guess?

I’ll start with the good news: I finished the draft of Violet Lane that I’ve been working on since last November. I haven’t gone back to read it yet, but I didn’t type ‘the end’ and immediately hate everything, so I’m calling it a success. And this week I started in-depth brainstorming on my next project. I’ve been thinking about the idea for probably close to a year at this point, but things only started to gel in the last few months; it’s been so much fun, and a great distraction from staring into the void. 

In some ways, it’s just great to have exciting plans for the future. All of the other writing projects I’ve got going right now are things I’ve been working on for years, and that I’ll be working on for a while yet. And as much as I love them—I wouldn’t still be working on them if I didn’t—it can be hard to muster much enthusiasm right now. Having something to look forward to, something new and different that’ll be waiting when I’m ready to hit ‘pause’ on one of these other projects it helps a lot.

The other thing I did this month was exchange some chapters with some new potential critique partners. That’s been… kind of a mixed blessing. 

At the beginning of the month, when I first put out the call on Twitter, it was great. The response was better than I expected, and I got some amazing volunteers. But I couldn’t have picked a worse time; I need to be in a good headspace to process feedback on my writing—good, bad, or in between—and I haven’t been in that space. Obviously. (Giving notes is almost as bad. It’s hard to do a good job with stuff like that when I’m so distracted, but I really hate to let people down or let go of commitments I’ve made.)

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle that in the long run. I’m trying to set reasonable expectations, more for myself than anyone else, and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a weird time.

I also said that most of my attention in March was going to go toward photography.

I really shouldn’t have said anything about photography, since I’m now stuck indoors: the parks and trails in my area are closed to the public. I’m only leaving the apartment once a week (if that), to walk to the supermarket, and most of that walk is next to a highway. (I’m so relieved that I didn’t commit to a public photo-a-day thing again this year.)

But. Remember that thing I wanted to announce back in November? I took care of the logistical issue that got in my way. I still won’t be able to launch for a while, but I’ll be ready to go once the crisis has passed. Finally.

Again: it’s something to look forward to. That counts for a lot.

I’m not going to make any big declarations for April. I’m not going to commit to finishing anything complex, or starting something big. 

But I’m going to work on the outline for the new thing, and start planning the next draft of Violet Lane. (I want to be able to start writing again in May.)

I’m going to get back into the query trenches with The Black Sun, because if I let that go too long, inertia will take over, and it’ll be like starting all over again.

I’m going to figure out how to handle the critique situation, whether that means stepping back from some of those commitments or leaning into them.

I’m going to come up with some ideas to reignite that photographic spark, to use these limitations to my advantage, rather than letting them get me down. 

I’m going to keep moving forward, however slowly.

Looking back at 2019.

Art + Craft, Personal

2019 was… well, it was exhausting and awful and the world is on fire—literally and metaphorically—and I’m glad it’s over, even though I’m not wildly optimistic that things are going to get better any time soon. (American voters: prove me wrong! Also, register to vote, and make sure you’re still registered every month or so between now and November. Please.) 

But personally… it was the best year I’ve had since… I can’t remember when. I took some good photos—not as many as I would have hoped—and wrote some stuff I’m proud of. I (finally!) finished The Black Sun, and mustered up the courage to start querying agents. I saw some real progress on my fitness goals (which I don’t talk about a lot here, but it was a good year). I started figuring out how to actually do stuff with my time, rather than trying a bunch of productivity hacks that never quite gelled. 

Sketchbook #49

Photography, Writing

I kind of feel like I should start this with some kind of ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ riff.

November was… a month. You probably could’ve guessed that—I barely posted to the blog at all, and I’m nearly two weeks late with this particular post. It’s not that it was a bad month, but… there was a lot of stuff going on (most of it good), and I’ve been kind of terrible about managing my time.

I’ll start with the ‘worst of times,’ because that’ll make the good stuff even better.

Snapshot #141 | 10 Things for 1 December 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. falling… behind on just about everything that isn’t directly related to The Black Sun, including my photography, this blog, and reading other blogs. I’ll catch up soon.
2. assembling… the gallery wall I’ve been planning since I moved into the apartment. (Five years ago?) It looks fantastic.
3. dying… my hair purple, completely by accident. It wasn’t too bad—faded to pink in a day or so, and now it’s just a few very pale pink highlights, which I’ve been getting so many compliments on—but it’s renewed that urge to go properly pink again, so… yeah. Might be a problem.
4. breaking… out the big down coat. Already.
5. running… into a roadblock in the Big Scary Photo thing. It’s on hold for at least another month or two, and I’m so annoyed.
6. trying… to figure out what to bake for Christmas. I’m running out of time.
7. hoping… I can make my phone last just a few more weeks. This is a terrible time to need to shop for a replacement, but I can’t put it off much longer.
8. thinking… about my goals and plans for 2020. I’m really looking forward to the new year.
9. wondering… if all the typing and sewing (I’ve been sewing!) I’ve been doing lately might’ve messed up something in my wrist.
10. taking… a big step in the right direction.

Snapshot #139 | 10 Things for 3 November 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. wishing… for a normal week. It’s hard to build a routine lately.
2. getting… inspired. I’ve got a bunch of new ideas for These Modern Things all of a sudden. (Probably because I’ve also got a huge list of revisions to do on The Black Sun.)
3. accepting… that my Lomo’Instant is dying. (It still technically works, but only in full sun, and even then it’s iffy.) It’s such a cute camera, but… yeah. I’m annoyed that it didn’t last longer.
4. trying… not to go overboard on Hallowe’en candy. (And failing.)
5. daydreaming… about converting a school bus into a tiny house. Someday….
6. waking… up at 4:30 in the morning because the cat hates this particular time change with a passion.
7. watching… so many movies.
8. shifting… to a traveler’s notebook for my bullet journal and other day-to-day stuff. (I’ve had it for a while, but I wanted to finish up the book I was using first.) I’m not sure what I think of it yet; I might end up switching back to a Moleskine in January.
9. recycling… another bag of stress-inducing clutter. Such a great feeling.
10. feeling… a bit overwhelmed.

Sketchbook #48

Photography, Writing

I thought that October was going to be busy, that there were a lot of things that would get in the way of my creative goals.

It turned out to be even busier than I expected: I’ve only had one full week without interruptions (even today they’re testing the fire alarms in my building, which is always a joy—that’s why I’m working on this blog post instead of fiction), I’ve had inconvenient (but not serious) health issues crop up, and it’s just been generally difficult to stay motivated.

But I did it.

I’ll start with Violet Lane. I wanted to reach the midpoint by the end of the month. I’m not quite there, but I’m close. It’s on the horizon. And I like the story. It’s really good (considering it’s still very much a first draft, and ‘really good’ in this context means disjointed and messy and kind of terrible in some places), and more importantly, I’m having fun with it. It’s still not easy to write, and I’ve definitely had days when it just wasn’t working, but overall, writing it is a good experience this time around.

Also, I mentioned it on Twitter, but getting back into a proper mid-writing-session coffee break has done wonders for my writing routine. The caffeine helps, obviously, but mostly it’s the process of actually grinding the beans and heating the water. It gets me away from the work for a few minutes, but in a way that focusses, rather than distracts. It’s fantastic, and I love it.

Snapshot #138 | 10 Things for 20 October 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. putting… off the upgrade to Catalina; it’s going to break too many applications I rely on.
2. reaching… the point where I have to decide whether I’m going to try (again) to grow out my hair, or if I’m going to chop it all off.
3. falling… down a rabbit hole entirely composed of Japanese stationery supplies. I might have a new obsession.
4. planning… the final (for now) round of edits on The Black Sun.
5. emptying… another one of those boxes I’ve been hauling (unopened) from apartment to apartment since at least 2008. The decluttering process is slow, but it’s still moving along.
6. thinking… about making some changes to the newsletter. Is there anything you’d like to see? Writers or photographers who do it particularly well? If you don’t subscribe, is there something in particular that would change your mind? Let me know in the comments, or via the contact form if you’d rather get in touch that way.
7. starting… my Christmas shopping. In early October. There were specific budget-related reasons, but I’m still pretty sure that’s a new record for me.
8. feeling… relieved. I took care of a few chores that were really stressing me out—nothing serious, I’m just terrible at adulting—and I’m so glad to be done with them.
9. realizing… that I’m a little bit out of practice when it comes to grinding coffee by hand. I had a good routine down in the spring, but I’ve been drinking cold brew in the office all summer. It might take a week or two to get the muscle memory back.
10. finding… my way back into a good writing routine.

Sketchbook #47

Personal, Photography, Writing

September wasn’t terrible.

It wasn’t great. Losing power for two and a half days knocked me off my stride, and it took me longer to recover than it should have. I haven’t been happy with my photos lately (I already mentioned that). I’ve been dragging my feet on pretty much every big important project I’ve got going right now, and looking for any excuse I can find to avoid working on them.

But I’ve made it through the first act of Violet Lane. It’s been slower than I’d planned, and I’m still having a hard time settling into a consistent writing rhythm, but I’m having a lot of fun with the story. For the first time since that very first draft, lo these many years ago, it feels fresh and exciting. Tearing everything down to the foundations helped immensely in this case, and I’m glad I took the risk.

I’m taking photos. Even if I’m not thrilled with the results, just the fact that I’m carrying a camera on a regular basis and taking photos is a win. 

September hasn’t been terrible, and after July and August, I’ll take it.

But I do need to get past ‘not terrible’ and start making real progress again.

I said last month that I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough, and (obviously) that’s still true. Creatively, it’s because I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock, in both my writing and photography, where I’m not quite sure what the next steps are. I’ve reached the limit of my skills; that’s not a bad thing (it happens to all of us, all the time), but it does mean that I need to think about how to ‘level up.’ I’ve got some ideas for how to do that with photography—I’m more aware of my weaknesses there, and as a medium it lends itself to dedicated practice—but I’m having a harder time figuring out my options for writing. (If you have suggestions, let me know. I might have an idea, but I have to think about it a bit more.)

The other reason I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough is simple fear. 

Snapshot #135 | 10 Things for 8 September 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. having… one of those weeks when it feels like I own way too much stuff.
2. wishing… Parker made gel ink refills smaller than .7mm. I love the pen, and love the ink, but it takes up so much space on the page—I just want a finer line. (Yes. This is really bothering me.)
3. trying… to find a place where my pilea gets enough sunlight, but where the cat won’t destroy it.
4. writing… the synopsis for The Black Sun. I’ll still want to perfect it a bit, but… it’s good. Another step closer.
5. troubleshooting… a really annoying email issue. (If anyone’s trying to get in touch with me right now—or has tried recently and hasn’t gotten a response, since apparently this isn’t a new problem, I’m just discovering it now—I’m sorry. I’m trying to fix it. If it’s important, try the contact form.)
6. settling… into a good productivity system. I think. Still fine-tuning it.
7. thinking… about turning ‘likes’ off on the blog. It’s not that I’m against them, really, but too many spammers abuse the feature, and I don’t know that it’s worth it. Any thoughts?
8. hoping… they finish resurfacing my street soon.
9. making… bread for the first time in ages. I finally had a weekend when I could stand the thought of turning on the oven.
10. starting… the new draft of Violet Lane. This is going to be fun.

Sketchbook #46

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

I ended last month’s creative review by wondering if it might be time for a reset. I knew I had to figure out some stuff with how I manage my time, and I had to figure out what I was going to do about Violet Lane. From a technical standpoint, I was happy with the photos I’d been taking, but from a creative standpoint, I was getting bored.

I must have forgotten about all that as soon as I wrote it, because when I sat down to write today’s review, I was sure that this funk I’m in has only been a couple of weeks. Not a couple of months.

Ugh.

I’ll start with the good news, because there is good news. I’ve figured out what I’m doing with Violet Lane.