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.
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.
1. realizing… that I’ve been procrastinating on some important projects.
2. ordering… so. many. books. (I had loyalty points to redeem, and I spent them well.)
3. having… the worst week. Seriously. Between the 9th and the 13th, everything that could go wrong did.
4. wishing… I knew how Lucy would react to another cat. (I met an adoptable pair of kittens that I’m absolutely smitten with, but I can’t really consider it with that uncertainty.)
5. regrouping… and refocusing. (Which is somehow not connected to #1.)
6. turning… off likes on posts and comments. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and it’s time. (I’m extending the comment window a bit to make up for it, but aside from that the comment policy isn’t changing. And, yes, likes still appear in the WordPress reader—I’d turn them off there too, if I could—but this way it doesn’t benefit the spammers who abuse the feature.)
7. trying… to catch up with my Instagram backlog.
8. solving… the email problem that was giving me stress dreams. (Part of why I had such an awful week… but at least it’s fixed now.)
9. getting… excited for autumn. I’m counting the days ’til I can break out the fingerless gloves and black tights. It’s almost cold enough, but not quite.
10. starting… to suspect I’m finally on the right track with Violet Lane.
Ok, so: Hurricane Dorian is heading this way. The rain’s already started.
I’m fine. Everything’s secured, all batteries are charged, I’ve got food and books and a manual coffee grinder. I’ve printed off a copy of the Violet Lane outline, just in case. (What more do I need, really? And, yes, I have water.) I’m watching a couple of nearby trees warily, but really, the worst I’m expecting (personally) is to lose power. It might be for a couple of hours, it could be a few days, but this early in the season, with all the leaves still on the trees—power lines are coming down at some point. (When Hurricane Juan hit in 2003, I was without electricity for almost a week. But that was a lower-priority neighbourhood when it came to restoration, and my apartment building at the time was only about a block away from the high-water mark.)
Rather than run down my batteries scrolling through Instagram and Twitter looking for updates, I’m going to keep my phone and iPad turned off as much as I can. I’ll update this post if something important comes up, and tomorrow’s regularly-scheduled post has been… scheduled… (I tried five different ways of phrasing that and hated them all), but I won’t be responding to email or comments, or getting any notifications until I’m sure everything’s stable again.
I’ll be back soon!
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.
I’ll start with the good news, because there is good news. I’ve figured out what I’m doing with Violet Lane.
1. trying… a new notebook setup.
2. making… an actual plan to try some of the (literal) hundreds of recipes I’ve got saved.
3. catching… another summer cold. I am having the worst luck with that this year.
4. worrying… that I’m about to become one of those insufferable Instagram ‘plant parents.’
5. going… back to the drawing board with Violet Lane.
6. missing… the merlins. They didn’t come back this year, which is sad—I loved watching them—but it does mean that the juncos have been hanging around more. They’re fun, too.
7. watching… some fantastically inspiring movies.
8. buying… a raincoat. I’ve needed a new one—or any water-resistant jacket with a hood, really—for years, but it’s taken me this long to find one I don’t hate.
9. seeing… a few connections I was missing before.
10. waiting… for a couple of very cool deliveries. (And they—mostly—arrived on time!)
I have no idea what’s going on with July. It’s been one of those months that’s simultaneously been dragging on forever and is disappearing in a flash. But July is almost over (however that happened), and I guess it’s time to think about how it went.
I’m going to start with photography, because that’s the bit that doesn’t make me want to tear out my hair this month. (Fair warning for when I get to the writing bit of this update.)
I’m still in that rut I mentioned in June, still taking far too many photos of flowers and not enough photos of literally anything else. So that’s not great. But I’m still carrying a real camera a few times a week, and I do like the photos I’m taking, even if they’re kind of boring.
But the real progress has been in the super-secret Big Scary Project. I’m still not ready to launch, but I have made some huge steps forward this month. (That ‘next step’ I mentioned at the end of June—the one that required an incredibly tedious bus ride? I actually tackled that the day after I said that it was going to be my top priority for July. And the bus out there wasn’t air conditioned, so it was pretty much exactly as painful as I imagined it’d be. It was slightly better coming back—at least there was a/c.)
Point is, I’m incredibly proud of the progress I’ve made on that project this month, and I’m super excited about the next steps. If I can keep the momentum going, I’ll be ready to make some actual announcements by fall.
Now. Writing. (Feel free to skip this bit. Last warning.)
“Maybe I’ll have some answers by the end of June,” I said.
Why do I set myself up like that?
I’m being a little overdramatic. The first two weeks of the month were good. Really good. It took a few days to figure out what I was doing with Violet Lane, but I’m well into the second draft now, and it feels like the big changes (cutting down the number of point-of-view characters, eliminating one character entirely, et cetera) are the right ones. I’m still wavering a bit on the tone (I want to make it darker, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I might have to rework the main character again), but in general, I’m happy with it.
My progress with photography is… ok. I’m in a bit of a rut—so many flowers—and I’m trying to figure out how to push myself out of my comfort zone with that. Part of the problem, I think, is that I’m in a bit of a rut when it comes to my routine in general—I do the same things and go to the same places, travelling the same routes, at roughly the same time every week—so I’m not seeing anything new. Nothing is feeling fresh or interesting. (I haven’t gone on as much as a day trip in over a year. The logistics for that kind of thing get tricky when you don’t drive.) Plenty of photographers have found inspiration in mundane environments, but I’m dealing with a general sense of frustration that’s just feeding on itself right now, and I need to figure out how to break myself out of it.
That said, the flower photos are ok—some of them have been quite good—they’re just boring.
Other than that things have been pretty much progressing as expected: I’m having fun with the website redesign, I’ve been making some real progress when it comes to figuring out my long-term plans (which… yeah, I kind of worked on that a few months ago, but I’ve been refining the ideas and framing them in a way that means I can work toward them rather than just dream about them), and I took a few small steps toward that big project that I’m still not announcing, even though I fully intended to do so this month. (More on that in a minute.)
… and then I came down with a cold. Nothing much has happened since last Wednesday. At all.
1. getting… back to work.
2. talking… myself out of dying my hair pink. Or teal. Or any colour other than blonde. I miss real colour desperately but I know I can’t be bothered to maintain it.
3. planning… the next draft of Violet Lane. I’m ready to start writing on Monday.
4. experimenting… with the whole bullet journal thing again. Turns out the setup I was using didn’t work as well as I thought.
5. trying… Beyond Meat burgers. I was pleasantly surprised—not the best burger I’ve ever had, but perfectly good for something store-bought, and far better than any other veggie burger I’ve had. I’ll have them again. (That said, I do want to finally try making my own veggie burgers this summer.)
6. catching… up on my podcast backlog! Completely! As of right now, there is no backlog. Which means I’m tempted to go looking for something new, to start the cycle all over again.
7. making… plans for the site redesign. Now I just need to pick a day to tear everything down and rebuild.
8. meeting… the new ravens! Over the past few years, I’ve managed to become friendly acquaintances with the local pair; this year I got to see their fledglings! (Which, yes, meant I was standing in the middle of a public path talking to four ravens like they understand English. But four ravens! 😍)
9. starting… to build my DVD/Blu-Ray collection again. I got out of the habit, but as streaming services multiply, it makes more sense to me to buy anything I want to see more than once. Now I need to figure out how to store these things.
10. refining… my goals and updating my inspiration board.
May has taught me that I really do need to build a better system for managing my writing projects.
It started off well enough—I had finished drafts of both The Black Sun and Violet Lane, vague plans for my next project (very tentatively titled These Modern Things), and I was excited to move forward. And then… not much happened.
May wasn’t awful. I’ve been brainstorming the new story and figuring out what I need to do with Violet Lane, and I’m waiting to hear from readers of The Black Sun. I’ve been beta reading a story for a friend. So it’s not like I haven’t done anything this month but… it kind of feels like it.