The title feels like an oxymoron for me, at least at first glance. My productivity over the past year definitely hasn’t been up to my normal standards. But of course, very little about the past year has been normal.
Exercise: I’ve been trying to use the new year as a kind of mental soft reboot. I’d slipped some in terms of exercise. Since I have a handy little tracker for steps, standing time, and exercise, I tried to focus on closing those three rings every day. Some days I got a better workout than others. Some days I barely squeaked by. But check it out:
This streak is unlikely to continue. I wasn’t aiming for a perfect 2021. The goal was to try to create some momentum, and rebuild old habits that had slipped over the past year.
In terms of health, I should probably take a closer look at my diet as well. But one thing at a time.
Writing: I’ve been a bit frustrated and discouraged on the writing front. My wife’s cancer in 2019 followed by the effects of the pandemic in 2020 have resulted in Terminal Peace being very late to my editor, and now we’re looking at a longer-than-usual delay to the actual release date. And another project I’d been hopeful for has not gone anywhere.
I hate the fact that there’s a good chance I won’t have a new book out in 2021. It feels like failure, even though I know better.
I spent the last few months of 2020 not really knowing what to focus on. Should I start a new book while I waited for revisions to come back from my editor? Should it be an adult book for DAW or something new and potentially riskier?
After trying a few things and chatting with my agent, I started 2021 with a better idea what I wanted to focus on. I haven’t been doing the 1000+ words/day I sometimes managed in the Before Times, and I haven’t written every single day, but I averaged about 600-700 words a day for January, and the result is about half of a first novel draft.
This is the new and riskier path. There’s a chance that this could be another project that doesn’t sell. But I’m making decent progress, and despite all the usual first-draft problems, I think it has potential.
I also have an idea for my next novel for DAW. I’m waiting to hear back from folks at my agency before I write up that pitch. My hope is that even if I don’t have a new book out in 2021, maybe I can at least sell one this year.
It’s a long way from where I want to be, writing-wise. I’d love to get back to doing some short fiction, and I want to branch out more as a writer. But again, right now, I think it’s more about regaining momentum.
Other Productivity: This is the stuff I think I and other people tend to overlook about the past year. Because sometimes “productivity” can be as simple as “I survived.”
Survival has used up more spoons than usual. I need to keep remembering to cut myself some slack, and to give myself credit for things like keeping everything going safely at home for me and the kids, making sure we’re keeping connected with family, finding ways to take care of our needs without unnecessary health risks, and so on.
A lot of it — cooking, cleaning, finances, etc. — is the same stuff I had to do pre-pandemic, but it all feels heavier these days. We’re all carrying more weight from stress and uncertainty, and it makes everything just that much harder.
Again, the goal isn’t to be perfect. And that’s good, because I’ve been anything but. But we’re getting through. I may not have remodeled the bathroom, and I know I’ve dropped the ball sometimes with connecting to people, but I think I took care of the basic needs for me and my family. We might not be at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, but we have the foundation.
Conclusion: I’m not where I want to be yet. But I’m trying to be okay with that. And I think so far this year, I’ve been going in the right direction.
Remember to be kind to yourselves this year. Amidst all the frustration about what we haven’t been able to do, remember to give yourself credit for what you have done.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to try to get through a little more of the nose-biting chapter in this book!
February 2, 2021 @ 6:28 pm
“Survival has used up more spoons than usual. I need to keep remembering to cut myself some slack, and to give myself credit for things like keeping everything going safely at home for me and the kids, making sure we’re keeping connected with family, finding ways to take care of our needs without unnecessary health risks, and so on.
A lot of it — cooking, cleaning, finances, etc. — is the same stuff I had to do pre-pandemic, but it all feels heavier these days.”
This is a good reminder. Even the ordinary things weren’t ordinary this year. Getting groceries meant finding which store was following protocols, where the supplies hadn’t sold out, when the least busy shopping times were, and developing a sanitation routine for groceries and bags and such, and for me (since I don’t own a car) which form of public transportation was safest. We should give ourselves credit for the extra effort required to just get stuff done.
Best wishes on the writing!
February 4, 2021 @ 10:24 pm
Hey Jim, we don’t know each other but our journeys have some parallels and I really appreciate how transparent and honest you are with not just the joys and positives, but the set backs and negatives that come your way as well. The integrity reminds me that, regardless of the image so many put out there that “everything is great!” on social media, that what really matters is the forward progress for our own individual goals. Here’s to risks paying off!
February 12, 2021 @ 2:40 pm
Baby steps have been an absolute lifesaver this year. Even small progress is good progress. Sounds like you’re headed in a great direction!
Have you ever read ATOMIC HABITS? I just reread it a few weeks ago, but it’s all about making small habits that are easy to keep. I’ve found it so helpful this year, what with 2020 being what it was, but also having a wee one who arrived *just* before all the pandemic stuff hit. (It’s also got some great advice on habit-forming, which I’ve definitely used a lot!).
Best of luck with the new, riskier project! Sounds exciting!