Snapshot #146 | 10 Things for 9 February 2020

Personal

Currently…

1. reorganizing… my sewing supplies so I might finally be able to finish something.
2. figuring… out some big-picture stuff.
3. wondering… if I’m going to bother with the Oscars tonight. I’m not excited about them this year (at all), but if I skip them, it’ll be the first time since I was fourteen. (Final—last minute—decision: I’ll be staying up to watch.)
4. drinking… all the hot chocolate. It’s been that kind of winter.
5. trying… not to worry too much. Lucy had to go to the emergency vet clinic. She’s feeling better now, but we both had a very stressful week.
6. troubleshooting… more weird technical issues. Fun!
7. thinking… about my writing routine. I’m almost done the current draft of Violet Lane, and I want to outline the next project—whatever that is going to be—while I let that rest.
8. wishing… that the newer WordPress.com themes had font & colour customizations. (I’m super picky. We’ve established that. I’m this close to going back to the theme I used for the first few years of this version of the blog.)
9. getting… to know a new tarot deck.
10. wanting… to bake something, but I’m not sure what.

Sketchbook #50

Photography, Writing

The first month of a new year is always strange for me. Between the new year and my birthday, I’m thinking of big goals and big dreams, and my motivation is as high as it ever gets. 

Which is good, because January is also difficult. I’ve got to rebuild routines that the holiday season shattered, and find my way back into stories I haven’t thought about in a month. I have to navigate a minefield of existential crises, brought on by that same new year/birthday season. January is dark and rainy or so cold I can’t even bring myself to walk to the coffee shop to interact with someone that isn’t my cat. If it wasn’t for those big goals and dreams, I don’t think I’d be able to make it through the month.

All things considered, 2020 is off to a pretty good start.

First of all: I finished Project366

I’ve got to be honest: I didn’t think it was going to happen. I fell behind on posting the photos here when I was painting the apartment, and the whole project stalled entirely in November. I came this close to just admitting my heart wasn’t in it anymore and giving up. But stubbornness won out over technical difficulties and lack of inspiration and the logistical nightmare of editing and posting that many photos over the space of a week. 

I’ve pretty much decided that I won’t be doing an official 365/366 project again anytime soon. Or any sort of photo-a-day project that lasts more than a month. Projects like that are great for some people, and I’m especially in awe of anyone who creates and posts a photo every single day for years, but they just don’t work for me the way I always hope they will—eventually, they always turn into a source of guilt and obligation, and that isn’t fertile ground for making art.

I’m not sure what comes next. I’ve been playing with some new gear—nothing fancy, but I do have a phone that works in the cold again—and that’s done a lot to reignite the spark, but mostly I’ve just been decompressing and not making solid plans just yet. But I have a feeling I’m going to start looking for something new to work on very soon; I do have big plans for the year, and I’m starting to get antsy to take pictures again. Right now, though, it’s nice not having that obligation hanging over my head, y’know?

It’s been a good month for writing, too. I’ve made good progress on Violet Lane: the current goal is to wrap up this draft by the end of March, and I’m on track to hit that target with room to spare. (Unless I’ve severely underestimated the wordcount for act three, which is always a possibility.) My feelings about the story are kind of mixed—I like it in theory, but I’m still not 100% certain I’m on the right track—but I’m having fun with the writing itself, so I’m not tempted to scrap the whole thing and start fresh (again).

I’m close enough to the end that I’m starting to think about what I want to work on next. For months now, I’ve been sure that These Modern Things was next in the queue, but I’ve suddenly got two other ideas (one novel, one screenplay) that are demanding my attention, and that might feel a little more in line with what I want to be doing long term. 

Maybe. I don’t know.

Now. February.

My primary goal, of course, is to continue progress on Violet Lane. I’m kind of tempted to say I’ll wrap up this draft by the end of the month—and that’s actually reasonable at my current pace—but I’m not going to commit to a certain milestone. If I finish early, that’s great, but I’m not going to push.

I realize that ‘keep working on this thing, but probably don’t finish it’ is kind of a boring goal.

I also want to start building some photography practice/study sessions into my week; I’ve been doing that for writing—two hours a week dedicated to improving my understanding and ability without the pressure of finishing anything—and I’ve been really happy with how that’s going. I want to do the same with photography.

And, of course, there are a few other things I want to do, mostly related to the business side of things, but I’m not ready to talk about them here. 

January is a strange month; even in the days between drafting this post and actually posting it, it’s thrown me some curveballs. But January is over and the year has barely begun. 

Onwards.

Snapshot #145 | 10 Things for 26 January 2020

Personal

Currently…

1. having… the worst luck.
2. trying… to choose my next writing project. (I thought I’d decided, but another idea is demanding my attention. After I finish the current draft, of course.)
3. reading… too many books at once. I need to rein that in. Again.
4. chopping… off my hair. It’s very short. I love it. (Still waffling on changing the colour.)
5. making… new plans for the blog. (Always, I know.)
6. hanging… more art. The gallery wall is almost done.
7. feeling… relieved. I’m so glad to have the 366 project out of the way… and I’m brainstorming ideas for what comes next.
8. waiting… out the rain.
9. looking… for new boots. The ones I have are fine with jeans, not so great with tights.
10. watching… some really good movies.

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 #142 | 10 Things for 15 December 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. rethinking… my holiday baking plans as soon as I figured them out. But I’m out of time, so I can’t make any more changes to my list. Really.
2. putting… up the tree. The 15th is the earliest I’m willing to go.
3. crying… over the Black Widow teaser trailer. Several times. (The Wonder Woman 1984 trailer makes me giddy. Both make me impatient for next year.)
4. listening… to DJ Riko’s 2019 Christmas Mix. I say it every year, but these mixes are amazing. They’ve introduced me to so much incredible Christmas music.
5. sending… my last query letter of the year. I’ve still got a few I want to send in January, but for now I can relax.
6. waiting… an absurdly long time for a shipment from Chapters/Indigo. Yes, it’s a busy time of year, but more than a week for my (in-stock!) order to even go in the mail is embarrassing.
7. accepting… that I’m probably not going to get much writing done this week. Or the rest of the year.
8. eating… Lindor truffles at 9:30 in the morning, because I’m an adult.
9. risking… frostbite for a few photos. By the time I put away the camera, I was genuinely worried. But at least I’m taking some photos?
10. realizing… that almost all of my goals and hopes for 2020 are within my control. Not sure if that’s awesome or scary.

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.

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.