Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in August: on research, learning to love rejection, Art Spiegelman on golden age superheroes, and more.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
1. starting… to pick up supplies for the balcony garden. It’s always a challenge (between the light and the nearby oak trees that try to murder the competition, nothing seems to want to grow out there), but I live in hope.
2. moving… forward with my big scary photo project. Small steps, but in the right direction.
3. thinking… about my creative process, and the things I want to make—in both writing and photography. Exciting things are coming. (Eventually. These things take time.)
4. getting… ready to update my inspiration board.
5. deciding… that I hate the little rubber backs that come on enamel pins now. They’re too easy to lose. (At least I noticed before I lost the pin, too.)
6. accepting… that it’s time to make some updates to the site design around here. I’ve been dancing around the idea for a while, mostly wondering if I was just procrastinating on other things, but… yeah. It’s time. I’m still deciding if it’s a full revamp, or just a refresh.
7. chipping… away at the podcast backlog. Again. (Always.)
8. looking… for a good baby-name site, with historical and demographic data and a good recommendation engine. (For naming characters. Not babies.) I used Nymbler for years, but I kind of hate how it works since the redesign.
9. setting… deadlines.
10. making… a new running playlist. The old one just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
1. nursing… a post-Endgame emotional hangover. (Didn’t cry in the theatre, but it was a near thing.)
2. thinking… about John Singleton. Everyone’s talking about Boyz N the Hood (and rightly so), but Higher Learning (trailer) had a huge impact on me when I was first falling in love with movies. This hurts.
3. making… a real plan for the new running season. I started later than I’d like (stupid rain), but it’s not too bad, and I’ve got plenty of time to reach my goal for the year.
4. baking… this cake. It might be my new favourite (small batch!) chocolate cake recipe: the cake is flavourful and delicate, the frosting is fantastic, and none of it is too complicated.
5. figuring… out a tricky worldbuilding detail in the mysterious next writing project.
6. planning… some changes.
7. starting… to daydream about cold brew season. Yes, two weeks ago I was complaining about how spring—let alone summer—would never get here. I got over it.
8. feeling… motivated. And also sleepy?
9. troubleshooting… the Scrivener export/compile process. I mean… it works, but it’s not exporting a file that looks the way I want it to when I import it into other applications. (I like to deliver the file to beta readers using Google Drive. It solves so many compatibility issues.)
10. looking… for ducklings and goslings every time I’m near the lake… no luck so far.
The end of April kind of snuck up on me, but here it is: time to check in with how I’m doing with my overall creative goals, and figure out what those goals are going forward.
My big goal, of course, was to finish up the third draft of The Black Sun. I’m technically still working on that, but I’m counting it as ‘done.’ The work is done; all that’s left is the final polish—tidying up a few typos and making sure the big edits didn’t introduce continuity errors, that sort of thing. I’ve done the read-through, and… I’m happy with it. I should be finished the polish in the next couple of days.
I’ve also been brainstorming the next projects. I’ve got a good basic plot and world for the next novel, and should be ready to start character work and outlining sometime in the next month. I’ve also got a vague plan for another thing, but… it’s very vague (as in, I still need to figure out the characters and plot). I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to get to that, but I’m mostly treating it as a side project right now, so there’s no rush.
The brainstorming for that side project also helped me clarify some of my plans for the second draft of Violet Lane. I haven’t started work on that, but that’s my big writing goal for May: to come up with a clear plan of attack for that draft, and to complete the outline.
(And I’m finally getting a handle on Scrivener. I still don’t like the file sizes, or the proprietary format, but I’m absolutely in love with the organizational features, and I’m slowly figuring out how to make the application work the way I want and need it to. I like it enough that I broke down and invested in the iOS version… and at $30 Canadian, it is an investment, so I’d better make good use of it.)
Overall, I’m happy with my writing progress this month. Normally, I’d take a break after reaching major milestones in two different projects, but… I don’t really want to. I want to keep this momentum going.
Happy Easter–or Passover–if you celebrate! If you don’t celebrate either, Happy Cheap-Chocolate-Day Eve!
1. finishing… the third(!!) draft of The Black Sun!
2. trying… the iOS version of Scrivener. So far, so good, though it does make it a little difficult to walk away from the story. (It gets weirdly tempting to edit scenes when the cat wakes me up at four o’clock in the morning. Not that she did that twice in the past two weeks or anything.)
3. getting… my tickets for Endgame. (And making sure I’ve got waterproof mascara on hand, because I have a feeling I’m gonna need it.)
4. figuring… out a way to organize Evernote that might actually work for me. Finally.
5. looking… forward to the Veronica Mars revival. Now I just need to figure out how I can watch it in Canada.
6. wondering… why all my library holds suddenly become available at the same time every time. It’s hard to keep up.
7. finding… everything I need for my first big sewing project of the year, and I’m so excited to get started.
8. buying… a new jacket. I wasn’t planning on it, and I’m not happy about the unexpected expense, but my old one finally gave up the ghost and it’s not warm enough for my denim jacket just yet. (At least it was on sale?)
9. making… hot cross buns. I’ve mostly got the recipe down–they taste amazing–but they’re still not very pretty. (Does anyone have advice for working with brioche-style dough? It seems to have a mind of its own, and I can’t convince it to stay in nice round buns.)
10. trying… to remember the difference between em-dashes and en-dashes. I never know which one to use.
If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be finishing up work on The Black Sun in a month or two. Really finishing—I’m sure there will be another flurry of work sometime in the future, but I’ve gone just about as far as I can go with this particular story right now. (I mean… assuming the next round of feedback is good.)
It’s kind of a terrifying prospect. I’ve been working on this story since the middle of 2017. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a single story for this long without abandoning it, but now I can’t quite remember what it was like when I wasn’t working on this story. (Technically, I’ve been working on Violet Lane longer—since 2016—and even finished a complete draft in early 2017, but I only really figured out what story I’m trying to tell with that in the last couple of months.)
For the first time in two years, I’m in a position where I can start thinking about writing something genuinely new.