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. 

Inspired | September 2019

Links

Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in September: finances of book deals and self-publishing, China’s effect on Hollywood, thoughts on Instagram and Like buttons, how commuting has shaped cities, and more.

Snapshot #136 | 10 Things for 22 September 2019

Admin, Personal

Currently…

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.

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. 

Sketchbook #45

Photography, Productivity, Writing

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.)

Inspired | June 2019

Links

Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in June: “I wrote a thing,” setting benchmarks, the impact of free stock photography, thoughts on wellness and mindfulness, crossing the US border, the origins of the Green Man myth, and more.

Levelling Up

Writing

One of my resolutions for 2019 was to “actively seek out inspiration,” to not only look for the art and media that made me want to do things, but to engage with it more.

I also said I’d keep you up to date with that.

Um.

Right. Yeah. Sorry.

I haven’t figured out a way to talk about it that feels natural for this space. I tend to shy away from writing reviews or critiques—even short ones—but I don’t know a better way to do it. (If you have an idea, drop it in the comments! I really do want to sort something out.)

But I have been doing the important part: over the last couple of months, I’ve been more intentional in the movies I choose to watch and the books I choose to read. This time, it’s not just a matter of pulling myself out of a rut (though… it’s kind of that, too), it’s about looking at the media that thrills me, and picking it apart and figuring out why I love it so much—and why it frustrates me, because most of the time, the stories I love the most are the ones that infuriate me. Not only are my standards higher, but I spend more time thinking about the story, working through character arcs and plot threads, and eventually—inevitably—seeing the places where they fall apart.

(And, no, I’m not talking about Game of Thrones—I’ve never watched it—but I do have to acknowledge that it’s part of the reason I’m thinking about this stuff right now. I’ve been watching the discussion over the past few weeks, and it’s given me a lot of new ideas about craft and storytelling.)

(I am talking about Avengers: Endgame. At least a little bit.)