Happy New Year, everyone! I was fumbling around the internet recently and came across a post on Fstoppers that provides a framework about how to process your creative output from last year and your creative goals for this year. I thought it would be fun and interesting to go through this list here to share with you all.
Note that I am going to change some of the photography-specific language in the questions to be broad. I’m a photographer, sure, but I’m also a bunch of other things all lumped together.
Ok? Ok! Cool! Let’s get going.
- On a scale of 1 to 10 how do you feel about your year as a creator?
Pretty iffy, overall. I posted 18 times here for the entirety of 2023: 8 were photos of my kids, 4 were TBLR posts, leaving just 6 that were actual writing. Not so great? But I did restart my TBLR project and am pretty happy with how that’s going. There’s been a bit of a lull through the holidays and all that business, but I have one in process that will go up soon. So that’s fun. I also have six more Failure States planned for when I feel like wallowing a bit.
- What is one big lesson you learned as an artist this year?
I wish I could say I learned something, but I am not sure what that would be? I haven’t pushed myself too hard this year. Granted we had a baby which took up a whole lot of time between January and the summer, but that’s not a good excuse. The honest truth is that I just didn’t make much time to be creative this year. Anxiety, depression, shit even just distraction. I’ve been not so good for myself this year as with many other years.
- Glance through your calendar for this year, are you happy with how you invested your time? Why or why not?
Not really. I spent a lot of time in 2023 dicking around and not getting too much done. Not that my value is determined by my output, but there was quite a lot of time that I spent messing around that I could have used better. I log all the time I do professional creative work in a notebook that sits on my desk. For a good part of the year I also logged the time I did personal creative work, but that sort of dropped off. I suppose that I subconsciously felt ashamed or something about how little time I was logging for it. Kind of silly. I should probably start logging it again this year.
- What piece or series was the best one you produced this year, and why was it the best?
I guess we can call this the resurrected The Black Laser Reads. I’ve been thinking about this for years but never felt like I had the technical skill to execute in a way I would have felt good about. But over the last two years or so I’ve been recording a lot of voice over auditions and learning a lot about processing audio for that purpose. Suddenly, this year, I realized I actually do have the skill to execute TBLR v2 in a manner up to my standards. That is pretty satisfying. I have so many books in line. I could fill my entire year just reading for TBLR and do nothing else. A bit of a trap there, actually.
- Evaluate your [output]. Are your pieces where you want them to be artistically? Technically?
Nah, they never are. My work can always be better. I think, for me, that artistic and technical quality go hand-in-hand. If one isn’t in place, then the whole work is a bit of a failure. I always try to accomplish both and consider both in the evaluation of the work after releasing it to the world. And I am not writing nearly enough. Not nearly enough.
- What do you like about your [work]? What do you dislike about [it]?
I like the creation of it. I like the feeling of focusing on a project and doing my best to make sure it comes out well. But I wish it were more varied. I love my kids, but I’d like to take photos of something that’s not just them. I love reading audiobooks, but I also need to be writing for myself. And I have some video work planned that I can’t get off the ground for schedule, childcare, and financial reasons. A lot of things I’d like to have done, but did not do for a lot of reasons that just feel like silly excuses no matter how real they are.
- Are you producing great work, mediocre work, expected work, innovative work, or poor work and why?
Somewhere between good and average. Above average, perhaps?
- What did you accomplish this year that you are most proud of?
I kept my kids alive and they are nice people. That’s it.
- What are you most disappointed about from this past year as a creator?
It’s been a bit of a creative wash. A lot of attempts, a lot of struggle, a lot of effort and thought and learning and support work, but not a lot of results. Frustrating.
- What is one thing you want to stop doing (1), start doing (2), and continue doing (3) in 2024?
First, I’d like to stop sabotaging myself and cutting myself so much slack. Do I need to drink a couple glasses of wine or beers at the end of the night? No, not at all. Do those things affect me? Sure! They definitely allow me to convince myself with excuses and they affect my sleep which makes the early mornings pretty useless. This isn’t even really about alcohol dependence or some feeling that I am an addict. I don’t feel that way. But I do think I could be better about saving that sort of thing for times where it makes sense and not rely on it as a way to blow off steam at the end of the night. Even if I knock out 30 minutes of work that I wouldn’t have done otherwise, that is a positive outcome. This was one of my major takeaways from our most recent Whole30.
Second, I’d like to start writing fiction again. When we were living in my mother in law’s basement before Sarah gave birth to the triplets, I started a story that I quite liked. I worked on it until Penny and Bea came home from the NICU, but really lost the emotional steam for it when Olive’s health took a downward turn. In fact, that story has opened automatically every time I’ve opened Scrivener since then. That’s like 3 years now. That’s a lot of auto-openings. I need to get back to it. There’s no craft that I enjoy as much as writing stories, but there’s also no craft I feel quite so unsure, so unconfident, so weird about. That feeds into a lot of fear and guilt and other stupid, self-defeating nonsense. I just need to rip off that bandaid and build some momentum.
I think the best way to do this is to set a real schedule for myself. For the last few weeks I have been deliberately waking up earlier. Trying to retrain my sleep schedule. Once in my younger adulthood, the middle of the night was a fertile creative time. Now, however, in my early forties with three children that just isn’t true anymore. It took me a while to realize this. No, that’s not quite right. It took me a while to admit this to myself. Hence the deliberate schedule shift. My goal is to get to the point where I can wake up early, spend an hour writing, and then engage with my day as a stay at home dad. Because that’s my life. I need to make it work. I want to make it work. The time for it is now.
I’d also like to take photos of stuff again. I feel like I’ve fallen into glorified snapshot mode, which is fine, but is not creatively rewarding. I am still going to take too many photos of my kids, of course, but I would like to also take photos of stuff that’s not my kids. You get it.
Third, I’d like to continue with TBLR and Failure State. Those are fun projects that I can work on when I am not fresh. That is, late at night, after a long day of small children screaming for my attention. I can absolutely zone out and edit mouth noises out of my performance of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” while exhausted. No problem at all. What I can’t do in that state is form compelling thoughts and ideas and then translate them into words. Best to use that time of the day for projects that don’t require 100% of my processing power.
So that’s about it. Some optimization for this coming year. Some places I’d like to put more juice. You know what would also be great? Getting a job. Or jobs. I’ve been seriously underemployed since Verdant collapsed and that is driving me nuts. But I’ll save that for Failure State: Verdant Construction whenever I get around to writing that.