When my wife and I moved into our new house back in February, we thought that would be the most stressful thing we did this year.
When I backed out of working a booth at a conference in early March because some Covid-19 cases had been reported in California, we thought I was being overly cautious.
When I had my birthday party on Zoom in April, with cases raging both here and back east, we thought that would be the low point.
When May came, and protests exploded across the country, we thought it wasn’t safe to join them because of the potential for the virus to spread, never imagining that the police would be the biggest threat.
And then…and then the year is a blur for me, truly. Protests, and cops run riot, and record wildfires, punctuated by two camping trips taken in desperation, to get out of the house, to get somewhere, away from people, only to find that those spaces were crowded, too, and it seemed that no one, young or old, thought wearing a mask or keeping their distance or traveling with just their families was important.
I remember October, because for Halloween we turned out the lights and huddled indoors and hoped no one stopped by to ask for anything, for fear of them bringing the virus with them.
I remember November, because the election dragged on and on and on, and the Trump Regime launched an attack on the legitimacy of the results that failed in the courts but convinced my entire family back home that Biden is an illegitimate President.
Oddly enough, November is when I was first able to mentally breathe again.
It’s also when I started writing the novel I’m currently working on, jumping into NaNoWriMo with both feet and falling on my face, as is the 2020 way.
But I picked myself back up, and I’m still working on the book. I like it more and more, as I write it and figure out new things about it. It’s going to be different from anything else I’ve written: a fantasy with very little magic, a historical book with a diverse cast across two continents, a novel told in third-person with entire chapters written in first.
I have no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea if anyone will want to read this thing once it’s done. It’s scary, but also….a little liberating?
I think that’s something I want to take into 2021 with me. An attitude, of not quite “fuck it,” but close. More like “you have no idea what’s going to happen in the world, and no control over it, so you should write what you want and worry about selling it later.”
Which is not to say that I’ve held back from writing the stories I’d like to. More that, when writing them, I’ve aimed to write something sellable, something I think the market will buy. It’s a…pressure, I guess, that I put on myself. To put some elements in and not others, to shy away from tackling anything too big or too strange.
This novel is one step along the path of letting that go. It’s a weird structure. It’s about a time and place(s) that no one (in the US) writes about. Its main character is disabled.
It’ll probably go nowhere, even if I manage to pull it off, craft-wise. I’m writing it anyway.
So thank you, 2020, for teaching me this much: Writing is hard, so you should write what you love.
See you all in 2021.