May is for Writing: Week 3

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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I’m going to be honest here. My writing goals went out the window last week. My daily word count was 0 and I didn’t even read any books. Why the sudden lack of progress? Life turned wonderfully sideways. In two weeks I’m getting married and moving cross country. In the mean time, I have to DO ALL THE THINGS! that come with planning a wedding and prepping to move over 2,000 miles west. Any farther and I’ll end up in the Pacific Ocean. 

Ironically, the combined craziness of wedding planning and moving cross country seems like the perfect thing to write about. I feel that that I should be judiciously documenting the next few weeks but I need all the sleep I can get. Ah well. This is what memoirs are for, after all. I do feel slightly guilty about not writing but I am getting ready for a marvelous adventure with my best friend. The writing can wait.

May is for Writing: Week 2

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Writing is hard. Writing everyday is even harder. I’m sorry to say that daily writing wasn’t something I managed last week. Some days my brain was so frazzled I just paced back and forth. Other days, I just stared at a blank screen before being completely unexcited about what my fingers typed up. There were a few good days though when I didn’t have to force the words out my head. 

The days where things were easy, where the words seemed leap onto the screen, were when I tried something new. Instead of trying to force a story or an essay from the ether, I captured my ideas. I wrote about backstory and tried to make sense of dreams. I wrote about questions that I wanted answered. I wrote outlines and paragraphs of descriptions. Whenever I thought something might be great to write about, I didn’t file it away in my brain for later but sat down and wrote everything out. No detail escaped the brain dump. Might not have much in the way of first drafts but I’ve got all I need to write them.

If you’re having trouble writing something new, let no idea escape. Record everything and sort the good from the bad later. After all, you never know when you’ll find that one perfect seed.

 

May is for Writing: Week 1

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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We’re only 6 days into the month so May is still new and fresh. I’m writing everyday. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. Most of the time, I play things by ear have no idea what I’m going to write until my fingers bungle about on the keyboard for a few minutes. Once the words start coming though, I don’t want to stop. I might take a break for yarn but words keep flowing in bits and pieces. When enough pile up, it’s time to go back to the page. 

The day before this project started I wandering around bookstores and trying to decide between Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I’ve heard amazing things about both books but decided to begin with On Writing. I devoured that book. I stayed up past 4 AM several nights just to finish. The first half of the book and several postscripts acts as a short memoir. The second half contains King’s sixteen rules of writing. Reading about the life and practices of an author I’ve been following since my early teens was a welcome peak behind the curtain.

Rule One: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 

I’ve already got the reading part covered since I’ve made a concerted effort to read more books this year. My handy spreadsheet, complete with pie chart, tells me I’ve read 25 books this year and that I’m in the middle of 3 others. Voracious reading is there to teach you how to write through observation. I really hope I’ve learned something from the hundreds and hundreds of books I’ve read over the years.

So May is all about working on the writing half of the equation. During the first few days I gave myself 15 minutes but I quickly switched to a minimum word count of 500 instead. Depending on the day, 15 minutes could only see a few sentences or it could see a whole page. Going for a word count lets me ignore the ticking clock and just get some words on the page. They might be horrible but you have to start somewhere. So far I managed to write more than 500 words per day, everyday completely separate from anything I’m working on for the site or other projects.

Writing, compared with last month’s project, daily knitting on the Norma blanket, is so much harder. Last month I had a pattern, numerous charts, and all of my materials. The work - aside from the actual knitting - was already done for me. The knitting could get boring because I knew what was ahead of me. When it comes to writing, I have no clue. It’s a wild and welcome adventure.

May is for Writing

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Lately, the end of the month has been a curious time for me. I’m often staring off into space or making  lots of “hmm” noises. Sometimes, I’m resting my chin in my hand, staring off to the side, and murmuring all at the same time. Why am I acting so weird? I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do for my next monthly Incremental Project. It’s not like I don’t have a list. I just can’t settle on any one thing until a day or two before it’s time to start.

The project for May was obvious but I didn’t realize it at first. Writing. Daily writing at that. There were no less than three things telling me to focus on my writing though there seem a lot more in my head. 

The strongest push came from last week’s 4th Annual Knit and Crochet Blog Week. 7 days worth of blogging about knitting, color, aspirations, and more knitting. I almost didn’t participate but decided to suck it up and try anyway. Last week pushed me to try new things and to think about the blog and my writing in a different way. I made an infographic for the first time and tried a wordless post. The wordless post was the hardest of the whole bunch. I wanted so much to write a few sentences about Trouble the Cat and enjoying curiosity but I let it go for the time being. Not writing made me realize how much I need to write. It’s not a question of wanting to but needing to. 

The second push to writing came from ZenHabits and a timely post entitled, “Why You Should Write Daily”. There was just too much sense for me to ignore.

The Alchemy of Writing” and its second half were what first put the daily writing idea into my head.  Tim Ferriss interviews Fred Waitzkin, the author behind Searching for Bobby Fisher, about writing and the creative process. It’s inspiring and makes me want to get typing.

Now that I’ve decided to write, the only question that remains is what to write about. It’s Day One and I have no clue. Suggestions are greatly appreciated. The plan so far is to start with OneWord.com as a warm up. You get one word and 60 seconds to write a few sentences. Afterwards, I’m dedicating 15 minutes to writing...something. Maybe I should just randomly bang on the keyboard and see if something intelligible comes out.

March is for Photography: Recap

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Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Hundreds of photos. Untold megabytes of hard drive space filled. Hours spent reviewing photos. Even more hours spent editing. A few dozen photos that I’m proud to show. My incremental project studying photography in March went pretty much how I thought it would. Except that it didn’t. I thought I’d read up on photography terms, learn about ISO and f-Stops, peruse photography blogs, and study lots of technical details. I didn’t even crack open the manual for my camera. Shame on me. I thought I was going to do all all those things because I thought they were what I really needed to become a better photographer. 

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Almost a month later, I’m sure that I still need to learn more about the technical side of photography. I just skipped over an important first step during my planning - becoming comfortable with my camera. I was fine taking photos on the back deck or the porch during the day, areas that I had decent control over, but I was really self conscious outside of those spaces. So, I started hauling my camera around everywhere I went. Didn’t always bring it out but I got used to the idea that I could snap a photo if I wanted to. 

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Always having my camera at hand has led to some of my favorite shots. During spare moments, I’d look around for the small details, the Everyday Magic as Tammy Strobel calls it, and try to capture the moment. I started to document my days like going to knit night or doing late night cross stitch. I’m seeing things that were passed over before, like this tiny and therefore adorable pinecone, because I wasn’t paying attention.

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There’s still a lot for me to learn about photography but I’m happy with the first step I’ve taken. Maybe I’ll finally get around to studying some of the technical details in these last few days of March.

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Previous March is For Photography Posts

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

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March is for Photography: Week 3

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Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Taking a photo a day - especially, a photo I want to show off - is hard. There, I said it. I didn’t start out thinking this project would be a cake walk but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be. A few days into March, I started following the daily prompts from Fat Mum Slim. Some days were easy and some I’m still haven’t figured out. No surprise, I fell behind. I was determined to catch up on Friday so I grabbed my camera and headed outside. The original plan was to take photos to match each of the prompts. They weren’t any easier. Thankfully, I was in the right time and place for the 15th’s prompt - explore. I took it and ran. Those other prompts? What other prompts?

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Magnolia Cemetary

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Last Saturday morning, my mom decided it was time for an impromptu road trip down to Mobile, AL. It only took an hour of frenzied packing and primping to get out the door. The drive was easy and the weather glorious. Nothing like a 4 hour drive south to breezy 74° weather to lift your spirits. 

Part of the reason for our trip was to visit the historic Magnolia Cemetery. The cemetery was originally established in 1836 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. At its founding, Magnolia Cemetery sat on the outskirts of town but is now near downtown Mobile. It was quite the paradigm shift to be standing between graves more than a hundred and fifty years old and seeing shining skyscrapers off in the distance. I walked past the graves of Confederate soldiers, infant children, state governors, veterans, and entire families. Some of the stones were were still as easy to read as the day they were carved. Other markers were cracked, broken, and worn. The names, dates and epithets almost lost to the world. A humbling experience to walk among the reminders of the dead.

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Historical information cited from magnoliacemetery.com

March is for Photography: Week 2

March 3 - Key

March 3 - Key

The March photo-a-day challenge continues and the challenge part is definitely right. It’s a lot harder than I thought it’d be. Somedays, the prompt is no help - fear, I mean you - and I have no idea what to photograph. Then there’s catching the right light, arranging a nice composition, and the final editing. Never mind any technical mishaps. Maybe I’m just over thinking the whole thing. 

Annoying as they are, the difficulties did lead me to a photography epiphany. Most of the photos I post here and the great majority of photos I take are posed and stylized. For every photo you see, I took at least 5 other variations that didn’t make the cut. I edit and crop and resize them just so. The photos don’t always turn out like I hope but they do get the point across. What’s more, is that I’m comfortable with them. March, I’ve discovered, isn’t about taking comfortable photos. I do want to learn more technical details and better understand my camera’s inner workings; however, I want to break out my box. I want to tell stories. I want to capture the small, daily details. I want to pic up my camera and be spontaneous. Not be chained to the regular, stylized routine. 

I didn’t even realize that I was stuck in a photography rut until I read a post about capturing unprompted moments on camera from A Beautiful Mess. Following other people’s daily photos helped too. The ever talented Leethal has been posting photos on her Tumbler. It’s inspiring and makes me keep trying.

March 5 - Under

March 5 - Under

March 6 - Chair

March 6 - Chair

March 8 - Favorite

March 8 - Favorite

March 10 - I Want

March 10 - I Want

March is for Photography: Week 1

March 1 - L is for...lion!

March 1 - L is for...lion!

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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In like a lion and out like a lamb. We’re only four days in to March and, so far, the idiom stands true. After the outright pleasant Spring-like weather in February, the temperatures dropped and March has seen fit to grace us with snow flurries. Nothing stuck but the snow did it’s best to cling to the windshield while The Bearded One and I were driving around town. I’m hoping that the weather returns to its pleasant self by the end of the month. I’m also doing my best not to get sick. Bring on the vitamins and warm, wooly layers!

Besides from snow, March also brings with it my new incremental project. February was all about yoga which I have come to love and greatly enjoy. Have no doubt, that a daily yoga practice will continue behind the scenes here at Chez Strategos; however, March’s main focus will be on photography. Almost every thing I’ve learned about photography up to this point has been completely through trial and error. Some of my photos, I’m very happy with. The rest, well, I pretend they don’t exist. It’s time to level up. 

March 2 - I Made This

March 2 - I Made This

Usually when I start these projects, I have a decent idea of how I’m going to spend the month and what resources I’ll be using to learn. I’m coming up a little short this month. So far, there’s Shoot It! Craftsy class with Caro Sheridan to learn from. I bought it months ago when it was on sale but haven’t done anything with it. I think it will be helpful but I’m not sure if it’s exactly what I’m looking for. Also on the to-do list for this month is finally reading the manual that came with my camera. 

Know of any good sources to learn photography? I’d love some recommendations.

March 4 - Lucky

March 4 - Lucky

The one thing I know that will help me improve my photography skills is practice, practice, practice. Sunday, I found out about Fat Mum Slim’s March Photo-A-Day Challenge from Leethal. The daily prompts should help me focus and keep me motivated through the month. Now, I’m playing catch up. It was a happy accident that two of the practice photos I took day yesterday - the lion head and my hand knit socks - match the prompts for the first two days.  Hey, Neighbor Cat counts for today - Lucky. This is an unintentional win. The blossoms don’t count towards the challenge but I like them. 

Onward to better photos!

Blossoms

Blossoms