2021: Looking Forward

My last post took a look back at what I did and did not accomplish in 2020.

Now, it’s time to look forward.

If you’re like me, it’s hard to find anything to look forward to this year. My kids are still at home doing virtual school. We still aren’t hosting family gatherings. There are no workshops or dinner parties or retreats on my calendar. Vacation would be nice, but hard to know when and what to plan for with a slow vaccine rollout and current numbers spiking in our state. Not to mention the distraction of recent events on Capitol Hill.

But, look forward I still need to do.

I have determined that 2021 will be the year of the small victories for me. And perhaps that’s a good thing. I’m currently writing my third novel, the first two now taking up drawer space, and it can be easy to judge my success based on the fact that the big milestones (securing an agent, going on submission, ultimate publication) are still lurking out of reach. Taking a step back to acknowledge the small victories (finishing a third novel, strengthening my craft, taking risks on the page) is probably the perspective I need to keep pursuing. After all, those “small” victories are big wins and the only things I can control on this journey anyhow.

Like many of you, I enjoy picking a word to focus on for the new year instead of a resolution. A touch point when I start feeling a little lost in the logistics of a goal or get off track with a side project (or global pandemic). Looking ahead to 2021, I needed to pick a word that wouldn’t mock me later like 2020. Last year’s word was venture. I had planned to attend my first writer’s retreat and commit to taking professional risks. When day-to-day life became risky, I shied away from adding any additional emotional risk to my already full mental plate. This year, I needed something softer. Something that didn’t focus on ambition or end goals. I needed something internal.

So, this year, I am focusing on two words: Grace and Resilience.

First up, Grace.

In 2020, I found it very easy to wrap my own self-worth up in what I was and was not handling well during the meat of self-isolation. While I easily doled out grace to my kids and their teachers and even the school board as decisions were changing and morphing during the end of one rocky school year and the start of another, I did not so readily award that same grace to myself. If I had trouble concentrating on my creative work, I was a failure. If I had to put aside work for the day to help fill a child’s emotional bucket, that was still time lost and due to my own lack of time management or dedication or focus or commitment. I often allowed my green-eyed monster to wonder how so-and-so managed to finish that book or languish in the knowledge that in this marathon-paced business of publishing, I was only delaying my own potential success. Luckily, I have a very understanding spouse who never seemed to tire of reminding me of the unique circumstances we found ourselves in.

This year, I want to extend grace to myself. To grant myself the openness and softness of inviting whatever emotion, challenge, experience into my life with acceptance and acknowledgement. My mantra is if it’s okay for my kids, it’s okay for me. Time to parent my inner self a little.

So, grace.

Next up, Resilience.

In looking back, I was able to recognize when I had adapted to the circumstances and make progress elsewhere even if the work in progress writing train stalled. I want to take that flexibility and nourish it in 2021. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.” Not always a strong suit of mine, so I want to focus on continuing to work hard; to adapt when necessary; to bend, but not break. Basically, I want to remember in 2021 it’s not about how many times I get knocked down, but how many times I get back up.

Grace and Resilience.

The last few years I have selected verbs or words that represent forward motion. It’s not lost on me that after 2020 I have settled into something a bit more cerebral. This slower pace of life without social engagements and meetings and date nights and chauffeuring kids to sports and clubs and play dates has allowed me to take a step back and really analyze what about this writing journey is important. Sure, I still want to find an agent, have the book published, see my name on a spine in a bookstore, but the process of getting there is beautiful and I don’t want to miss it because my eyes were too focused on the prize.

Grace and Resilience. All about the process. And the process is ultimately what brings us happiness, satisfaction, peace, isn’t it? This year, I’m focusing on the process.

What are you focusing on for 2021? Share your words in the comments or how 2020 changed your approach to your creative pursuits. And let’s cheer each other on in 2021! We got this!

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer, mom and unabashed Tar Heel.

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