Weekly Status: June 29, 2018

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Photo by vedanti on Pexels.com

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week.  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

Writing

Blogging

I think lowering my target posts by one took a bit of pressure off me this week although I struggled a bit to get my fifth post in, probably because I had a false sense of ease to accomplish my goal.  I know five posts per week fits well into my work, home and creativity schedule, I know now that I cannot take the effort I need to put forth in my posts for granted.  

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days

Fiction

I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend working on my novel.  I set aside a few specific times to work on my writing and committed to writing, outlining, or thinking about writing while avoiding doing absolutely anything else.  I did some of the writing outside and when I had that urge to check my e-mail or jump over to a browser, I held myself back and just stared at the trees and clouds until I could refocus on writing.  I am now working on setting aside more time during the week to work on my novel and other writing projects.

Next week’s target:  3 hours brainstorming and outlining

Photography

No photography work again this week, but at least I don’t feel guilty for leaving this out.  Maybe I’ll have time and an urge to play around in the next few days.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for for as much time as I want

Coding

I completed the rework of one my main views to a static view, at least everything that was in the dynamic view.  This week I will be working on adding even more components to the project in this view.  My plans are getting a bit complex but the good part for me is that each piece can be segmented into smaller chunks.  Not only does this makes it easier to work on but as I complete each segment I am rewarded with the satisfaction of making real progress.

Next week’s target:  Complete three more sections in the static tableview

Videography

Although I’ve completed the script I have not jumped back into the Motion project yet.  I expect to spend time this week mapping out the project with placeholders to see how the flow works.  This will also provide some basic Motion practice since I am still quite the novice and it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve done anything in motion.

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project using placeholders.

Have you started any new creative projects?  How are you fitting these in to your likely already packed life?

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Creativity, It’s Own Reward

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The time has come to rethink rewards.  As humans we reward ourselves for good behavior, such as a successful achievement.   We also reward ourselves for avoiding bad behavior, like not biting our nails.

Many of us use rewards to play internal games to get through the stuff we really don’t want to do. “If I do the dishes right after dinner, then I can watch an extra hour of Netflix without feeling guilty!”  Or, “If I finish the yard work, I can spend the afternoon on the deck with a couple beers!”

This system often focuses on rewarding the wrong part behavior or not using rewards we truly covet.

We love our creative pursuits, so why do we feel a need to reward ourselves for accomplishing small parts of our projects or completing them?  Why isn’t the end result enough of a reward in itself?

Why isn’t the end result enough

of a reward in itself?

The answer here is “work”.  We are not rewarding the success of reaching a milestone.  We are rewarding the end of hard work.  If it was hard work to polish off a dozen red velvet cupcakes, you can bet we’d be finding a way to reward ourselves for such a feat.

We need to change our mindsets.  We can continue to reward the hard work, but why not choose a different reward.  Instead of picking something fleeting like a sweet treat or streaming videos, give yourself uninterrupted and guiltless time for something you love.  Hell, let’s reward any achievement with more time for creativity.  “Wow, I just finished binge-watching this Netflix series, I’m going to reward myself with an hour of writing!”

Let’s admit to ourselves that creativity should be our reward in the mess of both responsibilities and leisure activities in our lives.  Our passions should be the rewards for which we strive.  Sure the work is hard, but we aren’t seeking the “phew that’s over feeling.”  We crave the “Wow, I’m proud of what I created” euphoria.

“Wow, I’m proud of what I created”

We should reward hard word while at the same time the reward should be something we love.  Choosing rewards is as important as choosing what efforts to reward.

So, for the hard work of finishing this post I’m rewarding myself with a half dozen donuts, and the hard work of devouring these sweet treats will be rewarded with more time for writing.

Are you rewarding the achievements or the efforts?  Do you ever use more creative time as a reward?  What do you think of rewarding yourself with more time for creativity?

Staying on Target: My Weekly Update

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week. Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Writing

Blogging

I’m proud of the fact that I have posted five times over the first seven days in June. With renewed commitment to my blog, I planned to post six of seven days. I nearly reached my goal for this first week. To stay on target, I am starting out the next seven days with this post on schedule, two more drafted and another sketched out.

Next week’s target: Post 6 of 7 days

Fiction

Getting back into my fiction project has been a struggle. I decided to go back to my first successful NaNoWriMo project from several years ago. That November I wrote 50,000 words without an outline, so it’s incomplete and quite a mess. I love the idea of this book and am now returning to outline the story. My biggest hurdle is the middle. It’s always been the middle. I have a clear picture in my mind of the beginning and the end, but the middle is causing me fits. Each time I sit down to work on the outline I am easily distracted.

Next week’s target: 3 hours uninterrupted brainstorming and outlining

Photography

I spent a few hours viewing Affinity Photo Video Tutorials and applying what I learned to my own images. I’m improving on a technical level and in my understanding of how to select and apply adjustments. There is still so much to learn, particularly on the “whys” and “whens”—for example, why should I use a curve adjustment over an exposure or brightness adjustment, or when should I apply a high pass filter first? More about this in tomorrow’s post.

Next week’s target: 1 to 2 hours of tutorials and practice

Videography

My current project is a Motion piece for the senior pet rescue where my wife works. I am currently doing some testing of the action sequences and drafting the script. As I move along in the script, I am realizing this is more of an undertaking than I originally pictured. I have figured out some motion paths and a cool particle effect but these still need loads of fine detail work. As a draft, I am liking how it is coming together. The rescue just began construction on their new shelter buildings this week, and I would love them to use this as a promo video about their new permanent home so time is of the essence to complete this project well before they move in.

Next week’s target: Complete the script

Coding

I dedicated most of my free time to blogging this week to ensure I met that goal. Not much time was left for other pursuits so coding fell by the wayside. Unfortunately, at my learning stage of coding, not keeping up with learning and practice results in significant steps backwards.

Next week’s target: 3 hours, minimum with the goal of understanding Collection Views

 

Good luck with your personal goals for the week. I will post an update on my target progress next Friday.  I’m interested to hear more about the projects you are working on, so feel free to share in the comments.

Journaling – What Your Creativity Needs

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I always thought journaling would be a waste of time. I never understood when I should, could or would want to go back and read prior entries. I resigned myself that journaling longhand would be useless since you would have to have an incredible memory or some intricate method of indexing entries if you ever wanted to find and reread something specific. When I decided to journal it would be on a computer using searchable software.

I am not one who journals daily, going days or even weeks without making an entry, but I have found a love for journaling and this love stems from the complete opposite reasons I listed at the start of this post.

After a while, I realized journaling isn’t about researching past entries. It’s not about finding something specific. Revisiting old entries should be an unplanned journey, albeit one into previously visited territories. These trips back in time can have so many unexpected affects. I’ve reread pieces that have forced me to figure out what the hell I was thinking or feeling at the time. I recalled things that had since slipped my mind. Rereading allowed me to vividly remember the emotions I replicated in words. At times I sparked new ideas for projects where I was stuck or needed a push in the right direction.

When I do write in my journal, the entry kickstarts my creative process. Whether I hit my full 500 word a day goal in an entry or only scribble out a hundred or so words, the act of journaling revs me up enough to continue using my creative juices.

It doesn’t happen for me everyday, but I don’t feel like I need to journal everyday either. Journaling cannot be defined, scheduled, structured. What it can be is useful as an enticement, and a tool for creativity.

Do you journal? What is your journaling goal or process? I’d love to hear more about you in the comments below.

Resolution Time, Again

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2018 is going to be a new year for me. I’ve said it before (probably even on this blog). You may have said it before, and we all could probably name a few people who we’ve heard say it before. For me, this year is going to be different for a couple of reasons. I have a new attitude and a new approach to making positive changes in my life.

The skeptic in me keeps asking, “how could your attitude transform as simply as the year changes on the calendar?” As I ponder his query (and yes, I’m aware arguing with myself is not always the best use of my time), I realize my attitudue has been evolving over several months now. Due to a very emotionally exhausting experience early this fall, my attitude has fluctuated between investing more time in my creative pursuits or just pluggin through life at my normal job. What the change in year gives us is a powerful line in the sand past which we can fully enact a change. Its a fresh start, a new beginning, or it can even be a do over.

I’m a goal setter and a resolution maker. This year it occurred to me that apparently I am better at establishing personal levels of achievement more than actually fulfilling these goals. I don’t beat myself up when I miss them because I can seemingly rationalize away the defeat by focusing on the other things I have achieved or new goals I have already set in my mind.

I am bound and determined to make a change in this personal process this year so I am taking a new approach. Rather than set very specific goals as I have done in prior years I am taking the lead from Scott Adams’ book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life”. Adams says in his book, “goals are for lossers”, so this year I will establish systems. The difference between goals and systems, Adams explains, is that goals have a very specific outcome or ending while systems are things or processes you carry out every day that could, and in many cases should, go on indefinitely.

For 2018, I choose to focus on three systems – Learning, Organization, Completion. Rather than set a list of highly specific goals at the beginning of a long year bound and determined to morph from month to month, I changing my approach to set up three systems that will allow me to succeed this year even as my ideas, interest and available “me” time adjusts under the influence of external stimuli.

As of today, some of the things I would like to learn this year are Apple’s Motion software, Affinity Photo (an affordable Photoshop alternative), and advanced Swift programming. I’m afraid if I set out specific goals for all three items I would not sufficiently succeed in some of these goals. I might also purposely avoid an opportunity to switch gears should a new interest arise. By focusing on “Learning” I will be successful when I make progress on each and every new task I undertake related to learning.

I chose organization and completion as two additional systems. To make lifestyle improvements I see these system going together like peanut butter and jelly. I tend to jump around from task to task in both my profesional and personal responsibilities., so improving my organzational abilities will lead to seeing more projects all the way through to completion.

Even though this first post of the year is over a week past that all important calendar change, I have already made strides toward these goals. So far this year, I have been excited everyday to put my new systems to use. The key to my success is execution, continued execution.

Have you set any resolutions this year? I’d love to hear about your approach to success in 2018 in the comments section.

Practice, Practice and More Practice

Lately, I have been spending more time practicing my writing than working on my novel, and I can honestly say it has been for the better.  I am still moving forward on my novel by working through the structure and new ideas in my head.  Sometimes this process muddies the waters but more often it allows me to see clearly all the way down to the riverbed, but my daily practice is the driving force that will help me get through to the end.

I also read (and re-read) Joe Bunting’s book, Let’s Write a Short Story, which can be found at one of Joe’s sites The Write Practice or Let’s Write A Short Story or at Amazon.  I took the approach that I need more practice before I will be able to complete my first novel and what better way than to improve my ability to write a story.  Additionally, the confidence of completing a smaller project that must contain all of the same elements of a story will be worth any time spent away from my novel.

Practice tips are included throughout the book and after every blog post.  A morphing of several tips lead me to develop my own method for daily practice.  I chose to take at least five to ten minutes, once or twice a day, and write a descriptive passage based on an emotion, a feeling, an object, a character or any other single item I imagined.

This method of practicing frees my mind from the constraints of my current project.  These practice passages open my creative mind to new ways of approaching just about any aspect of a great story.  What’s freeing is not having to adhere to or develop a backstory or do extensive world building because these are just snippets.  The thoughts of “my character would never do that” or “that would be impossible in this world” never come into play.

And you know what the most freeing part is?  It doesn’t have to be good.  I write it and can set it aside, never to be read again.  I’ve written a few passages that I am proud of and may choose to develop.  If I can work out a full story that fits with the passage I wrote in practice perhaps I will use the piece in a completed short story or novel.  You never know.

Although I ask myself for only five or ten minutes to complete the practice, by the time I am done fifteen or thirty minutes have usually flown by.  The following passage took just over thirty minutes to write.  Other than correcting some typos and minor errors, the piece has not been edited.

If you have a few minutes I would be interested to hear your thought on my piece or how you practice your own creative pursuits in the comments below.

Dumbfounded described his sudden feelings perfectly.  Perplexed?  No that was too scientific.  Dumb.  Founded.  A wonderful juxtaposition of two words with so little in common, but his thoughts led him down a path designed to distract him.  It worked.  His mind knew him better than he knew himself.  He pulled his mind back to the situation at hand.  The predicament he found himself in could never have been predicted, at least not under the normal laws of physics.

He began to pace the room.  He pictured the great thinking minds of the world pacing or walking through a beautiful campus setting solving their problems.  With such little room to pace, he doubted the same methods would work for him here.

The sea roared below him.  At least that is what he assumed made that sound.  He had never been to the sea, so he pieced together memories of sea noise from movies and decided it matched.

The diamond shaped window sat high in the wall, emitting enough light for him to review his surroundings, but too high and far too small for an escape.  The curved walls began at the deep red wooden door and ended back at its hinges.  The black iron showed no signed of rust, in fact they appeared newly painted.  No handle or latch was visible on his side of the door, only a comically large keyhole, which made him chuckle a bit.  The infrequent yet distinct marching coming faintly through the underside of the door prevented him from peering through the hole.

Moments ago he had been in the gym locker room in Ohio.  Now the ancient stone walls, beastly wooden door and sound of the sea altered his well established understanding of reality.  Had he asked for this?  Perhaps, his mind answered him before going silent.  He was at last alone.  Truly alone.

Metal scrapping metal drew his attention back to the door.  The hinges squeaked as the door inched inward.

Getting to the “Trying” Stage

10 Inspirational Quotes about Trying

Lately I feel as if I am in the preparation stage of all my projects and just cannot cross the line to the “doing” stage.  I searched out some inspirational quotes to push myself to try and not just watch from the sidelines.  I hope these help you, too.

“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.”  – Alexander the Great

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  – Thomas A. Edison

“Move out of your comfort zone.  You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”  – Brian Tracy

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”  – Jack Canfield

“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”  – Stephen Kaggwa

“Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.”  W. Clement Stone

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”  – Unknown Author

“Most people live and die with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try.”  – Mary Kay Ash

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”  – Beverly Sills

And finally, my new mantra,

“I try. I am trying. I was trying. I will try. I shall in the meantime try. I sometimes have tried. I shall still by that time be trying.”  – Diane Glancy

Why Write A Blog With No One To Read It

Some may ask, “why write a blog if you have no intention of publicizing it, sharing it or even having its existence known to even the smallest group?”  I would be happy to answer this if such a question is posed.  The paradox is that if no one knows the blog exists, then no one could ever ask such a question.  For now, I will leave the question unanswered while the search for my blog’s existence will be a quest for those completely bored out of their mind from everything else in the world to occupy their time.
For me, this blog will be an outlet for me to personally express myself, primarily through writing.  I have a desire to write on a regular basis and have little interest in journaling, so I have made the decision to try my hand at blogging.  My intention is that this blog will have a voice, but that voice will be all over the scales.  Some days it will be high pitched, expressing a view I am strongly passionate about.  Other days it will be a low, lumbering bass, meandering through general thoughts that pop into my mind which I feel the need to expressed in the written word.  Some days it will be sharp, showing my critical side.  I suspect that in most cases this side will be directed at those people who find themselves to be more important than anyone else believes them to be (a wordy synonym for politicians or those with undeserved celebrity).  My voice may be flat, sharing a dull thought or story that moves no one other than to click on something else before they reach the end.  Most days, I hope, my voice will be a pleasant combination of notes from high to low, moving up and down the scale mixed with a sharpness on some days that is not intended to offend and a flatness that encourages you sit back and ponder my words.
You, as the reader, should there ever be one or a small handful, should be free to criticize, comment, or even express agreement with my musings, my stories, my rants, and my praises.  My only challenge to you is to make your posts constructive in an effort to move people’s ideas forward rather than pushing them back to places we should not return, make them respectful to the others who post before and after, and most of all, do your best not to read your own tone into every syllable posted with which you do not agree.  Some people are very good expressing themselves clearly in written form, while others’ words are not always read with the same intent as the author.  Be forgiving to your fellow participants, ask for clarification of needed, and participate when you are moved to do so.
If you are looking for an eclectic mix of writings and topics, I truly hope you enjoy what you find here.  Everyone is welcome.  I encourage you to share all your thoughts and ideas.