Each year, I complete a creative annual review to assess what I accomplished, evaluate the techniques and tools that I used, and think ahead to the next year’s creative goals. My creative review process focuses on my writing and graphic design / illustration, with an emphasis on the creative work I do outside of my day job.
My Creative Productivity in 2017
What creative work I Made in 2017
- Created two illustrations for Liminal Stories magazine, plus a cover design
- Revised half of my work-in-progress novel, The Second Rebellion
- Wrote half of a first draft of a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (60,000 words)
- Created three free CC-licensed texture packs, as part of my ongoing goal to give back to the creative community
- Completed 20 ink illustrations during Inktober
- Listed 6 of my nature-inspired, minimalist designs on Society6 — so I got to cross off an item on my creative bucket list!
My 2017 Productivity by the Numbers (from RescueTime)
- 277 hours writing
- 61 hours during NaNoWriMo
- 24 hours of hard-copy edits
- 12 hours of hard-copy outlining
- 52 hours design + drawing + photoshop
- 1.25 hours / day on creative work
- Goal was 1.5 hours / day (or 10.5 hours / week) — met goal 115 times
My Creative Practice in 2017
How I Worked in 2017
- 2-3 weekly writing meet-ups (often more social than productive, to be fair)
- 1-2 weekly solo writing sessions at a coffee shop (for part of the year)
- Inktober challenge in October
- National Novel Writing Month challenge in November
Productivity / Accountability Techniques and Tools I Used
- Pomodoro technique using cuckoo.team
- Weekly Novel Progress Reports
- Monthly Reviews
- Shared wordcount tracking spreadsheet with writing friends
- Developed a writer’s mission statement and 1- and 5- year plans, inspired by Randy Henderson (I did this at the beginning of the year and definitely did not stick to the one year plan, though)
Writing Craft Tools
- Scene cards from Story Genius for my NaNoWriMo project
- Jami Gold’s romance beat sheet for my NaNoWriMo project
- Chapter planning worksheet I designed with my writing weaknesses in mind (Chapter Analysis Worksheet (.dotx))
Ongoing Learning: Books I Read and Courses I Took
- Read 4 new writing books:
- Story Genius by Lisa Cron — highly recommended for her scene card technique to ensure each scene ties back into the story’s emotional core
- Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig — recommended for finding the heart of your story
- The Love Plot by Katherine King — recommended for pulling detailed romance story beats from — the narrative was not very useful
- Write Naked by Jennifer Probst — NOT recommended for anyone who’s done any writing before
- Practiced new illustration techniques and tools during Inktober, and with Jake Parker’s online inking course
Reflection and Evaluation of My 2017 Creative Work and Practice
Writing self-evaluation: What Are my Challenge Areas?
After identifying some challenge patterns in my writing last year, I got a little aggressive in avoiding them, to the point where I felt like I was losing sentence structure variation. Happily, I re-read the first draft of my NaNoWriMo project and didn’t find my prose too simplistic. Another trend I’ve identified in my prose this year is a tendency to essentially write sentences backwards, where the second part of the sentence logically should come first. Knowing that common issue, I can keep an eye out for logical flaws as I re-read my work.
Incorporating Lisa Cron’s scene cards into my drafting process has already helped me improve my storytelling measurably. The process of developing scene cards is still hair-pullingly-difficult, but I hope that as I get more practice with them, it will become easier. Reflecting on my NaNoNovel re-read, for future projects I will try integrating the descriptive exercise from my chapter analysis worksheet into the planning process.
Graphic Design / Illustration self-evaluation: What Are My Challenge Areas?
The graphic design that I do at my day job is undemanding and relatively standardized, so I’ve tried to keep doing different projects to prevent my creative work from stagnating. Illustrating short stories for Liminal Stories magazine over the past two years has given me a reason to create new work, along with an audience for that work. I decided to participate in Inktober this year to push myself to experiment with new techniques and tools.
My design work at my day job gets little critique or input from others with an eye for design, so I’m cautious of falling into a rut. Additionally, while in the past the combination of illustration and design has been the hallmark of my work, the pieces I create for my day job primarily use photography, and there’s little need for illustration. I worry I crossed a referential line and went too reductive in one of the pieces I created for Liminal Stories this year.
Creative Practice Evaluation: What Worked for me and What Didn’t
After tracking my productivity patterns for the past few years, it’s clear that I write best when I follow the Pomodoro technique. I have a hard time making myself use Pomodoros outside of NaNoWriMo, unfortunately – though I’ve had more success applying it when I’m doing creative work away from home. Hence, why I added a weekly writing session or two at coffee shops either after work or on the weekends.
Balance is a challenge for me, in that I have many creative goals and not enough time or energy to accomplish them, so I feel the constant drive to be working on a creative project, and guilt when I’m not being productive. During 2017 I worked on training myself to set realistic expectations for what I’m able to accomplish, considering my other interests and obligations. This time and energy deficit also inspires me to make my creative practice more efficient.
2018 Writing Goals and Work Plan
Writing Productivity Goals for 2018: Year of Storycraft
I want to hone in on my storytelling practice, and build my skills by finishing stories using the storytelling tools that have helped me this year, especially scene cards. I’d also like to apply my storytelling practice to the comics medium.
What writing projects I realistically want to accomplish in 2018 (top priority projects):
- Finish writing / revising my second draft of The Second Rebellion
- Give the revised draft to beta readers
- Re-read the revised draft myself
- Finish writing my first draft of the Beauty and the Beast retelling
- Complete a NaNoWriMo project (TBD)
What writing projects I hope to accomplish in 2018 (probably wishful thinking projects – I tend to be overambitious so I’m separating these goals out):
- Adapt my short story “Night in the Death Zone” to a 32-page comic:
- Write script
- Storyboard the pages
- Adequately prepare for NaNoWriMo by starting planning for a new project in September, with the goal of having all scene cards prepared by October 31
Writing Practice Plan for 2018
Where and when I will write:
- Continue attending 2-3 group write-ins a week for support and accountability
- Continue my weekly after-work writing session
- Continue my weekly weekend writing session
- Participate in NaNoWriMo in November
How I will write:
- Goal of 10 hours of writing time per week (online or offline)
- Goal of 7 Pomodoros of writing per week (when drafting new material)
How I will keep myself accountable for writing:
- Evaluate progress and set specific writing and revision goals each week with Weekly Progress Reports
- Assess productivity using Monthly Reviews
Writing Craft Goals for 2018
- Practice using scene cards to draft new content for my Beauty and the Beast retelling
- Try combining scene cards and my chapter worksheet
- Try out some of the exercises from Story Genius that I skipped for my Beauty and the Beast retelling
- Continue working on common prose issues (in drafting and during revision), including overuse of gerunds to start a sentence, overblocking during dialogue and overuse of dialogue tags, and writing things “backwards” logically
2018 Illustration Goals and Work Plan
Illustration Productivity for 2018: Year of Broadening Skills
In 2018 I’d like to broaden my illustration skills by learning about and practicing new techniques (inking and watercolor) and working towards my long-term goal of writing and illustrating a graphic novel.
What I hope to accomplish in 2018:
- Illustrate the 32-page comic adaptation of my “Night in the Death Zone” story
- Develop 5 character designs for my Little Mermaid graphic novel retelling for the main characters: the mermaid (as human and mermaid), the MP, the MP’s sister, and the mermaid’s friend
Illustration Practice for 2018
When and where I will work on illustrations:
- Participate in Inktober
- On Tuesday evenings after dinner, I will draw
Illustration Craft Goals for 2018
- Finish my inking course
- Take a watercolor online course or watch YouTube videos about watercolor techniques