A Look Back

It is hard to look back on a year that is so currently in your face. We are facing the worst numbers in the pandemic so far, making the cold, winter months ahead more intimidating. The election is behind us, but political bickering continues. And civil unrest–well the fact is we shouldn’t leave that one behind at all because there is work yet to be done and we need to continue to listen and fight for a better world for all.

But, taking a step back from the mountain of world events dominating our consciousness, we are all still taking care of kids, aging parents, and work. For me, that work is writing. And since that makes me my own boss, it was time to sit down and review how the year really went.

On the surface, it did not go great. At the start of 2020, I plotted out very specific goals:

  • Finish a New Novel in 2020
  • Write 12 Short Pieces (essays, flash, short stories, articles)
  • Query Existing Book

Each goal was then broken into actionable items and until March, I was killing it. But the world fell apart and so did my creative drive. The first two months were focused on adapting to new pandemic rules, sorting out the kids’ school and mental situation, and, honestly, taking care of my own anxiety levels. Eventually I did finish a very rough draft of the new novel this summer, but originally I wanted to be able to start 2021 querying it. That will not be happening.

As for short pieces, there are a few starts of things, but that’s about it. And querying? I tabled that manuscript after some (admittedly fair) feedback and decided to focus on the new book for now so I didn’t lose the creative thread (I’ll go back to the other one and dive into revisions again at some point).

As I scanned my journal at all the touch points I missed this year, I felt…well, honestly, I felt like a big fat failure. So many items were left unchecked on my list or stalled in a virtual file folder. Then I read this blog post on Writers in the Storm and decided it couldn’t hurt to make a list of everything I did do (as it pertains to writing) in 2020. Just to see. Here is my list:

  • Rough draft (99,000 words) complete
  • Currently halfway through revision pass
  • Participated in the WFWA mentorship program as a mentee
  • Created and launched a new author website
  • Created and launched a new author Facebook page
  • Participated daily in the annual WOW (Work our WIP) month in February and met my goal
  • Participated in a Writing Career Vision Workshop
  • Participated in an intense Donald Maas Workshop
  • Wrote 5 (now 6) blog posts (compared to the 0 written in 2019)
  • Created 45 Instagram posts
  • Sent 23 queries of the earlier book before deciding to pause
  • Read three craft books

So. Not a big fat failure after all.

The stories we tell ourselves in our head, are often more compelling than the ones we are trying to put on the page. Because I had not met one part of my original goal (DUE TO A GLOBAL PANDEMIC!!), I went ahead and deemed the year a waste. But, in looking back, I adapted, creating new challenges (like the website revamp) that were more achievable for my current mindset. Because my pace changed, I was able to read the incredible Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin before beginning my edits, completely changing the way I approached them. I jumped into the Donald Maas workshop that otherwise I might have skipped because the timing conflicted with my original 2020 timeline. And thank goodness, because that workshop still whispers in my ear as I revise adding emotional layers I might not have considered before.

Maybe I’m trying to put a silver lining on a shit storm of a year, but taking a second to see all the small things I accomplished (I fed my kids three meals a day and occasionally posted on my author Instagram!) reminded me that I am resilient and adaptable and still working. Maybe not as much as I would like or as fast as I normally would, but I am working. I am making progress. Slow and steady.

The fact is, we can’t all be creative during a pandemic (seriously Taylor Swift, two albums?), but we can take baby steps to nourish that creativity through books, music, coloring books, knitting, binging a new show, or simply writing a note to a friend, so that when our mental space feels free, we’ll be ready.


Slow and steady.

See you later, 2020. Here’s to a healthy and happy new year filled with grace and gratitude for each other and our writing wins, no matter how big or small they may be.

Photo by Cedric Fox on Unsplash

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer, mom and unabashed Tar Heel.

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