Each year since 2010, I’ve conducted a personal review looking at aspects of my life from my creative career to my lifestyle. Several months ago, I decided that I need to up my writing game, so I also dug deep into my writing’s strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s worthwhile for writers to set aside a few hours to complete an honest, kind self-assessment of your writing to help you improve your writing.
The quantified self movement of collecting personalized body data has exploded since its ‘genesis’ in 2007, with a FitBit on every wrist and services like 23 and me offering personalized genetic analysis. I’m a data fanatic who studied to become a scientist, and I’ve bought into personal analytics, with a FitBit of my own, food tracking on MyFitnessPal, a log of my reading on Goodreads, and time tracking on RescueTime. But why should data be limited to our bodies’ data? Why not apply self-tracking to our creative pursuits, too?
I took a critical look at my fiction writing a few months ago, but found that assessing my graphic design practice actually felt more painful. While I subscribe to the tenet ‘you are not your work,’ I make a living from my graphic design and exposing my flaws felt more personal. But as a professional, I need to constantly improve my craft so that I continue to make products I’m proud of and that fulfill the needs of my workplace and clients.
I recently turned 30, so I’m taking the opportunity to snapshot my creative skills and challenges. Knowing our weaknesses and instinctive tendencies is just as important as knowing our strengths, and allows us to be better creators, no matter what our medium. Honest self-evaluation – acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses – is the first step to improvement because it teaches me what I need to practice. I can also ask specifically for critiques of those elements where I need the most work. I’ve identified common challenges in my first drafts / mockups, as well as my successes and skills, areas where I excel.
I consider myself a skilled graphic designer within my field of expertise, environmental education – and a passable, almost-good-enough fiction writer. In both writing and graphic design, I tend to excess. With my focus on space opera, I write the grandiose. In graphic design, I prefer daring, out-there designs. I don’t believe excess is inherently flawed, but it’s not always appropriate to clear communication or suitable for branding, so it’s valuable to recognize in my work.
When I was selecting plants for my front yard, I had a challenging time guessing which plants would do well, especially the natives. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there about which native plants take well to PNW Puget Lowlands gardens (or maybe I was looking in the wrong spots).
I planted between May and July 2015, shopping at multiple nurseries to get everything (and still couldn’t find everything I’d picked out), so I’m reporting back on how the plants I chose did after an extremely hot and dry summer. I think I had higher-than-normal mortality due to the drought, rabbits, and mistakenly thinking one section of my yard was much shadier than reality.
I’ve divided the blend of native, drought-tolerant, and wildlife-friendly plants into categories: favorites, doing well, surprises, meh, dying, dead, and scrapped.