Only a Year: A Thank You Letter to Our House

My wife and I bought the house we’re living in almost exactly one year ago. We closed (finished all the paperwork) on January 31, 2020. Started packing on February 1. And moved in February 2nd.

Anticipating all the get-togethers we’d host in the new place, with all that extra yard space.

During the move, I cut my head, bad enough to think I might need stitches. I drove the twenty minutes to the nearest Urgent Care clinic, only to be turned away. It was Super Bowl weekend, you see, and everyone was getting in to see the doc before the game started. I could wait two to three hours, or I could go home. I chose to go home, and resume moving (suitably bandaged, of course).

No masks. No fear of other people. No hesitancy in going out for fear of catching something.

Three weeks later, having finally decided where the furniture would go, we held a house-warming party. Invited friends from all over town, got a taco truck to cater lunch, filled half a dozen metal troughs with ice and beer. We thought it’d be maybe a few hours, ended up lasting all afternoon and into the night. I made a toast for the late-night crowd using Stone’s Vertical Epic re-release to talk about every significant year in our two-decades-long marriage. We had a blast.

It was the last party any of us have been to since then.

We’ve been lucky this year. Neither of us has caught Covid-19. We’ve both been able to work from home, from this home, during the pandemic. My wife took over the third (guest) bedroom as her office, a bedroom we didn’t have at the old place. We had a garage big enough to hold all the boxes for all the deliveries we started getting. We had a kitchen big enough for us to start cooking all of our own meals. A yard just big enough for our pups to go out and get some exercise, since they couldn’t go to the park anymore.

I feel fortunate and grateful, and a large part of it is due to this house. So thank you, house, for being there for us.

For not having any roof leaks, other than the small one in the garage that we won’t talk about.

For being insulated enough so that we can both be on Zoom calls in different rooms and not hear each other.

For not having any weird smells.

For being rock-solid enough to keep on trucking with your older appliances and bathroom fixtures, and yet flexible enough to accept upgrades when we could get them done (safely).

For having lots of sun for the pups to lay in (they really do seem to be solar-powered).

For being well-ventilated enough when we needed you to be, and tightly sealed when we needed that, too.

For being just big enough for the two of us, but not so big that we couldn’t keep you clean (and thanks for understanding when we felt a little too overwhelmed to scrub the bathtub that other week).

But most of all, thanks for being ready for us. And for our company, in the short time period when we could have it. I hope we can have some more company, too, in the near future.

Good Bye and Good Riddance, 2020

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.

2018: By the Numbers

Oof, 2018.

So many times this year, my wife and I looked at each other, reminiscing about something that happened to us, and said “was that really last week?”

I don’t know how a year can both feel like it’s whizzing by at 88 miles per hour, and be cramming in a month’s worth of events in every single week, but this one did.

So, to help me remember the sheer number of things that have happened this year, I’m going to set them all down. Well, as many as I can recall, anyway.

Writing

Since I started my new scoring system in February (which, again, thanks to Scott Sigler for sharing that with us at a Writers Coffeehouse), I’ve written 71,902 words.

Most of those were on the novel that I finished (finally!) in November. I did write one new short story, though, and edited four others.

I submitted just one story to three new markets, all of which rejected it.

Reading

Thanks to Goodreads’ singularly bad UI, I have no idea how many books I read in 2018. It’s something north of 20, but that’s all I know.

Personal

I moved not once, but twice, in 2018. First move was from rental to rental, second was to the house we bought in July.

Neither one was easy, though the second put a bigger dent in our finances, not least because we had to completely redo the upstairs flooring and master bath in order to move in.

Here’s hoping there’s no more moves for me in the near future.

Oh, I also started an exercise routine (walking 3/week, yoga 2/week) and taking French lessons through Babbel. But I’m holding off counting those “for real” until I either drop a pant size or can read an Asterix comic in the original (preferably both).

Travel

I also traveled…a lot. Maybe more than I should have.

February was the JoCo Cruise, March was WonderCon, May was San Francisco (work), June was Downtown LA, July was the move (yeah, I’m counting it twice), October was Ireland (work), November was Boston and DC, December was Seattle (work again).

Tbh, I’m looking forward to January through March, if only because I know I’ll be sleeping in my own bed that whole time.

2019

So what lessons can I draw from these figures?

First, when writing a first draft, I need to be more aggressive with my weekly writing goal. It felt like I wrote a lot more than just 70K words this year, and that’s probably a function of how long I was working on the same piece. If I were to maintain the 2,500 words a week pace I had at the end of the year, I’d double my output next year.

Second, I need to submit more. There’s really no reason to let a story that’s complete and edited sit on the shelf. I need to get back into the habit of sending a story out again as soon as it gets rejected. No more dithering.

Third, I need to stop using Goodreads. There’s just no excuse for an interface that’s that bad. And I’m fortunate enough to know how to build my own replacement, so that’s what I should do.

Finally, I might need to actually travel less. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it interrupts my writing work, and given I’m also working a full-time job that requires a lot of my brain’s meager capacity, I can’t afford to lose that time. Unless I can find a way to keep writing, even while traveling, I need to cut down.

2014 In Review

At the end of each year for the past five or so, I’ve written up a set of goals for the coming year. Not resolutions, or habits I want to establish that might help me achieve some vague goal, but concrete targets to aim for over the next twelve months.

Here’s what I wrote down as my goals for 2014:

  • Get 100 regular users for Rewryte.com
  • Find a permanent place to settle
  • Live abroad for the summer
  • Have one short story published
  • Post to the blog on a weekly basis
  • Keep the same job through the year
  • Open a retirement savings account
  • Learn Haskell

So with the year wrapping up, how did I do?

It’s a mixed bag: definite success for three of the goals, complete failure for the other five.

In the success column, we can put “find a permanent place to settle” (my wife and I bought a house in April), “post to the blog on a weekly basis” (with the exception of the holidays and NaNoWriMo, I’ve been posting thrice weekly for a good while now), and “keep the same job through the year” (I was developing a bad habit of switching companies every year or so, making our taxes more complicated and my resume look like I’d been playing employment hopscotch; this year I stayed with the same employer the whole way through).

I failed at everything else, though.

For a few, it was because my goals changed: rather than open a retirement account, we opted to payoff the credit card; instead of pushing for more users of rewryte.com, my business partner and I shuttered the site this summer to work on smaller projects.

Sometimes accomplishing one goal conflicted with another: buying a house meant we didn’t have the cash to try living abroad for the summer, and focusing on work-related skills while I stayed with my employer for the full year meant not spending time learning a new programming language (Haskell).

And for the last, I simply couldn’t do it. I submitted several short stories to be published, yielding a nice collection of rejection letters, but no sales.

So: 3/8 or, a 37.5% success rate. That’s a fine batting average, but doesn’t say much about my ability to set and accomplish goals.

Of course, not everything I ended up striving for is captured in that list: holding our monthly spending to a budget, winning NaNoWriMo, paying off the debt incurred from the sale of our previous house, taking ASL classes, taking cooking classes. So priorities shifted, and goals were pushed back or shelved.

Perhaps what this really reflects is poor judgement on my part at the beginning of the year about what will be important to me over the course of it?