So Long, 2020
What can I say for my review of 2020, other than the obvious? 2020 was terrible, stressful, depressing, scary, exhausting. There is so much we missed out on and so many we miss.
Like many of us, the months of stress and fear have taken a toll on me. I mean that physically and psychologically. There are definitely more grey hairs on my head and in my (for lack of a better term) beard. I put on the quarantine 15. And I haven’t been able to focus or relax like I used to.
Some Bright Spots
My review of 2020 would be incomplete without some high notes, so let’s start with some good news. Most importantly, my family is safe. So far. Knock on wood. We were able to adjust to closed schools and working remotely, and we have a bit of space in our home and a backyard.
My family started gardening. We got a second dog and a second car. Appliances broke down (because we were home more, using them more), so it was a chance to upgrade some of the things original to our house from the 60s. I had my appendix taken out. I include that as a good thing because the doctors were able to remove it just before it burst.
I also started playing video games again: peaceful and relaxing ones like Among Trees, silly ones like Fall Guys, and ones I could teach to the kiddo like Mario Kart 8 on the Switch. Yeah, I finally got a Switch, but too late for the Animal Crossing craze. I downloaded Hades, but I haven’t had a chance to start it.
A Dry Creative Well
But—and I feel a bit guilty saying this was my biggest complaint—I felt my creative well dry up. I couldn’t travel or go to museums or the movie theater. I couldn’t even read like I normally do.
If you look at my Goodreads challenge, it looks like I read a lot, but it was an atypical year for me. Because I couldn’t really focus or concentrate for long periods, I didn’t read as many novels as I usually do. Instead, I read a lot of graphic novels and some poetry. I listened to audiobooks on all those dog walks. I even read a lot of productivity and project management books. They had a positive impact on my job, but they were far from the creative, inspiring reads I normally enjoy.
A lot of the main sources of color, novelty, or excitement just weren’t there for me in 2020. And so like my hair, I felt greyed out all over. Consequently, my creative well ran a bit dry, and I wrote so very little and finished even less. I think I submitted only one thing, a flash piece. That’s better than nothing, but only just barely.
I turned 40 in 2020. It really got me thinking about how if I want to be a writer, I need to find ways to write more. And to do that, I also have to get other things in order.
To complete my review of 2020, here’s one of my favorite songs from the year: Karen O and Willie Nelson’s cover of “Under Pressure.”
I want to say that I’m glad 2020 is over, but it’s not really over, is it? We’ll still be grappling with COVID for months. So until we can all get vaccinated, we’re staying at home as much as possible, and masking up and keeping our distance when we go out. But, even as 2020 bleeds over into 2021, I have a few ideas about making this year better.
The chief idea comes from Vice’s Casey Johnston: “Normalize being kinda mediocre at something and still finding value in trying to get better at it.” I’m still a beginner writer. Writing at a professional level is a goal off in the horizon. As I continue my march in that direction, I want to learn to like the act of writing more. To see it less as a source of frustration and more as an opportunity to explore, create, grow, and learn.
The second idea I came across in this video. Instead of resolutions, it suggests creating themes for the new year. As long as you take steps toward the theme (or fewer steps away from the theme), that’s a success. It’s a lower bar for success than, say, trying (and failing) to lose 15 pounds. So I have a few themes for 2021.
I want to do the things I was doing before 2020, and I want to do more of them. I want to fill up that creative well by reading, watching movies, listening to music, and playing games. Most of all, I want to create: I want to write, edit, and submit my stories.
I want to push myself to write boldly, to experiment, to risk. To praise and encourage myself when writing, and to be strict and firm when editing. I want to find quality through quantity. I want to be a better writer at the end of the year.
Before COVID, I was planning on turning my basement into a home gym, but I didn’t pull the trigger quick enough. After everyone went into lockdown, demand far outstripped supply, so until I get the equipment I originally planned for, I have to get creative (see what I did there?) with what the equipment I have. And I have to remember that even when I don’t feel like working out, something is better than nothing. And odds are, I will feel much better having done something.
I have a spouse and a four-year-old daughter. If , on top of a full-time job, I’m going to find the time to refill that creative well, write, and work out, it’s going to take some discipline.
I will need to make sure work is squared away so I can have time for my family as well as myself. I will also need to train myself to look for opportunities to pursue creative and healthy options, to keep coming back to the page and my home gym.
That wraps up my review of 2020. Thanks for sticking with me for all of this. I hope you find your themes and that they make your 2021 better. I hope you, your friends, and your family stay happy and healthy.