Ending 2020

2020 was a year. I went into it with several creative goals, and this blog post will serve as a reflection on what happened during that grueling, exhausting year and how these goals changed.

2020 Goal Recap

At the end of 2019, I said that in 2020, I would:

  • Write at a rate of 700 words per day, unless I write a poem, with an end goal range of 219,800-256,200 words for the entire year.
  • Recommit to setting aside evenings to write without distractions.
  • Draft the story about Deisis.
  • Outline and write half of House of the Naiades.
  • Publish Acts of Speech on June 17.

Managing Expectations

Even before the pandemic started, these goals were derailed. At the beginning of February 2020, I fell ill with the flu, was sick for two weeks, and was barely able to get out of bed for about a week of that — there were some moments when I wondered if I was truly going to be OK. Being sick for so long, and having to deal with the life things that had piled up plus the long tail of fatigue that persisted for a few weeks after, tanked my writing habit. Just when I was starting to get back into a regular schedule, the COVID-19 pandemic closed the entire state, and everything became extremely chaotic overnight.

There was this moment that March, before the mask order started, when my girlfriend and I were heading back to my apartment along one of the mostly-deserted roads leading back into the city. To the left of us was marshland and undeveloped space that led out to the Long Island Sound or some bodies of water connected to it; to the right, the sprawl of businesses. It was a gray day, foggy, and we suddenly saw an Asian grocery store that we had never seen before connected to a takeout place. It was a single-story building made completely of wood paneling, the kind that one sees in rural areas in Upstate NY or Massachusetts and that always seem to be dissolving back into the damp air. There was one car in front of it. We decided to stop there for toilet paper. It felt like something out of a video game — those scripted moments before the action starts. We went in and there was a woman about our age piling instant noodle packets and drinks into a small basket, the owner of the SUV parked outside. The crinkle of the plastic packaging as the packets fell in and the whine of the stores’s refrigerators were the only sounds. The produce selection was minimal, and half of the illuminating lights had gone out. I grabbed some sriracha and four rolls of industrial toilet paper. The other woman paid, left, and came back because she realized she wanted to order something. We went back to the car and sat there for a few minutes, taking in the tension and the strange, out-of-body feeling of everything.

Over the next few months, it was hard to focus. I get anxious easily, my body in need of movement because my mind is a caged bird that needs to stretch its wings. The bad flu had left me keenly aware of my mortality and of all of the commitments that I want to complete before I die — the Seven Papers, a variety of hieropoeia, and so on. I was angry about my difficulty focusing and all of the times I spent pacing, trying to gather my thoughts together like bats scattering in the night, but I persisted. I kept leaving Twitter and going back when I became too lonely and in need of people, and I was angry with myself about that because Twitter is toxic and only superficially like being around other people.

So that was my 2020 mentality. Goal-wise, I did not hit my 700 words per day. I wrote …

  • 88,235 of the book about Deisis, which is now complete minus the in-world corpus material I need to decide how to incorporate before I write it
  • 33 poems — most for Acts of Speech to round out the work, some independent, and five for my speculative theogonies project
  • 4,074 words of a novella I’m writing about myths
  • 7,178 words of a short novella I’m writing about alien nymphs
  • 37,111 words of the book of the Seven Papers I started on after the first book about Deisis was completed

Out of the prose words, that comes out to 136,598, or 373 words/day. It was only about half of my goal, but before I did the calculations, I was pessimistic about how well I had actually performed.

You can see that I published this year in review post on 18 January 2021, and the reason is that I was dreading going over the facts and figures. I am happy about the increase in poetic work — and, I must admit, I have no idea how many words I wrote on my religious blog in 2020, but I blogged a lot.

I decided to sunset working on House of the Naiades for now, but may return to it in a few years.

Finally, Acts of Speech was published on 29 October 2020, several months after I intended to do it. It just wasn’t done, and I had to figure out a lot about self-publishing. The print copy wasn’t ready for a few weeks after the e-copy due to COVID-19 delays in printing.

What about 2021?

Well, I still have lofty goals. Last year taught me a lot about bandwidth and capacity — and also my significant issues resisting Twitter when I feel as alone as the speaker in the Old English poem “The Wanderer”. What I’m bringing from those experiences is a stronger commitment to my family’s group text, connecting with my mom for full moon rituals, participating in a very thought-provoking Zoom thing, and doing video chats with friends and family.

My biggest goal is to get better at prioritizing single-tasking. In years when I have been very good at this, my word count (and overall creative productivity) has been high, and many of my other goals — getting back into meal planning, Zooming my social life, and making my mornings less harried by doing the dishes in the evening — are meant to support that. I want to carve out Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 10:00 PM as solid time chunks for creative work, with the rest of my weekday evenings remaining more open.

My word count goal for 2021 is 200,000 words, or 25,000 words per month, in the first nine months of 2021. I want to write 2 poems per week for my speculative poetry book, several religious poems for all of the Gods that are useful in household ritual, and a miscellany of secular poems that I can submit to lit mag and anthology markets. My stretch goal is an additional 25,000 words or so to complete the two short novellas that I’m excited about. Once September rolls around, I will reorganize my schedule to account for how hectic the fall semester is, and I can use the time blocks I’m setting aside to prep two (previously) completed novellas for publication in 2022. If the vaccine distribution is mostly complete by then, I will also be making changes to my schedule to account for increased travel to see family.

In time, nothing is certain, but I hope that these flexible principles will help me get back on track after an exhausting year.