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.

Snapshot #121 | 10 Things for 24 February 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. going… a little overboard on the coffee station (I now have a coffee grinder in my office…), but it’s seriously the best thing I’ve ever done for my productivity, so I’m not going to worry about it.
2. thinking… about trying to get my old MacBook Pro up and running again. I’ve got a weird emotional attachment to that thing, and I miss it. I’m not sure if it’s salvageable, though (at least not at a price I can justify).
3. making… another attempt at sourdough starter. (The first try was doing well, until suddenly it wasn’t.) Still not quite there. Sticking with my usual bread recipe for now.
4. trying… to be a little better at Twitter. (Pretty sure I go through a phase like this every six months or so, don’t I?)
5. reevaluating… the office setup. Some of it isn’t working quite as well as I’d hoped.
6. remembering… that the Oscars are tonight. I’ll be staying up. I always do.
7. finishing… my first sewing project of the year (you may have already seen it on Instagram; if not, I’ll show you tomorrow), and starting to plan the next one (which is significantly more complex).
8. feeling… really good about both of my current works-in-progress.
9. starting… my annual search for the perfect pancake recipe. (I’m picky.)
10. getting… used to Scrivener. I think. Maybe.

Snapshot #112 | 10 Things for 21 October 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. wishing… the cat didn’t like the comfy reading chair I got for the office quite so much. I seriously never get to use it.
2. wondering… what happened to my nice fall weather. I was not ready for snow.
3. realizing… that it’s been years since I made an apple pie. Years. That’s ridiculous, and I have to do something about it.
4. feeling… like I’m close to a breakthrough.
5. trying… to ease back into Twitter.
6. looking… for a good 350mL travel coffee cup. (This is one of those areas where I’m weirdly picky.)
7. realizing… that I’ve got a lot of things I want to do in the next few weeks, and it’s kind of freaking me out.
8. finding… my perfect shirtdress. (In related news, I’m going to start wearing dresses casually again. Really.)
9. loving… the new season of Doctor Who. So much.
10. drinking… all the coffee. 🖤

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 | 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 #83 | 10 Things for 13 August 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. hoping… for good weather. It’s been so humid lately.
2. thinking… about a new feature or two for this site.
3. running… a day or two behind on my Project 365 posts… again. Grr. (I mean, I’m almost up-to-date. But not quite.)
4. getting… more and more frustrated with Pinterest every day. Not only are the ads getting more and more obnoxious (I don’t object to ads in general, but in practice these ones are seriously annoying), but they’ve apparently stopped showing my feed in any kind of order (so I’m missing new stuff and seeing old stuff over and over again), and, the last two days, it’s been impossible to pin images from anywhere but the site itself. It’s maddening.
5. finishing… my painting! I haven’t put it up yet (there are reasons), or even decided which way I want to orient it (the joys of abstract art!), but the painting itself is done!
6. looking… at new to-do lists and productivity systems. This is sort of a week off for me, so it feels like a good time to reevaluate how I do things.
7. taking… Lucy for her annual terrorize-the-vet’s-office visit. (They’ve actually said that she doesn’t need to come back next year. Unless there’s an actual reason, they’re perfectly fine with her only coming in when she needs to have her vaccinations updated.)
8. buying… that new camera bag I was thinking about. So far, I love it… the real test is going to be this week.
9. falling… out of love with Twitter. It makes me a little sad, but… yeah. I keep feeling like I should use it more, but I don’t really want to.
10. making… early plans for NaNoWriMo.

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 #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 #43 | 10 Things for 31 January 2016

Personal

View this post on Instagram

Today was a black and white photograph. #nofilter

A post shared by Reghan Skerry (@reghanskerry) on

Currently…

1. waiting… for the perfect light.
2. playing… with new toys. And having so much fun.
3. trying… to be better with Twitter. (Again.) Hopefully, I can make the habit stick this time.
4. cursing… the weird DRM they use on library ebooks. Because why would anyone want to switch between devices when reading a book? (Also cursing particularly dumb bank fees. Because I’m getting old, apparently.)
5. listening… to Blackstar all the way through, finally. So good.
6. framing… and hanging art. ♥
7. getting… ready to start the real work on the office. First up: getting rid of the awful beige paint. (Well. No. First up is a massive decluttering operation, and packing up whatever can be packed. Then the painting starts.)
8. cleaning… out my files. I’m already in spring-cleaning mode. Up next: my closet.
9. watching… The Force Awakens. Finally. (The fangirl in me is very happy.)
10. wondering… why I find it harder to shop for myself than for (literally) anyone else.

My Creative Toolkit | reghanskerry.com

Snapshot #33 | 10 Things for 13 September 2015

Personal

Currently…

1. tackling… my reading backlog. The stack is getting a little smaller.
2. rethinking… a few things.
3. making… an effort to do something with Twitter for once.
4. feeling… like a grown-up. A boring grown-up.
5. working… on some behind-the scenes stuff around here. Time for a new coat of paint, I think.
6. watching… Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. So much fun. (And the costumes!)
7. looking… for a good iOS game. I’m getting a bit bored with my usual.
8. starting… work on the office. Not quickly, but things are finally moving in the right direction.
9. waiting… for fall. I’ve hit my limit with summer.
10. trying… to wake up.