What a Long Strange Year It’s Been

I had an internal debate about whether to write this essay because compared to other years nothing happened. That’s not exactly true, of course, but what happened was mainly restricted to the confines of our apartment, and my interactions were with very few people. My sons and I went on no road trips this year. The science fiction convention that my youngest son and I attend annually was cancelled. All the summer gatherings of writers that I usually go to were cancelled as well. Once COVID-19 reared its ugly head, my life was confined to my home and the few square blocks around it. A strange year indeed.

The world has been in turmoil, our nation has been in turmoil, and the economy has been in turmoil. For the most part, I have coped by sitting at my desk and working almost all the time, seven days a week, about ten or more hours a day. I counted myself fortunate to have work to do. So many people lost their jobs. I was able to struggle on because when the pandemic struck I was already a freelancer working from home, already working hard to barely manage to pay the bills each month. The disastrous tsunami of unemployment that swept the world didn’t really affect me – although lately my income has dropped a bit because an educational website I usually write for has fewer assignments available to claim. When COVID first struck and kids were having school at home, at first there was a flood of work at this site as children and their parents sought help and answers. Now, though, I think that people have wearied of homeschooling and have slacked off at it. As a result, the activity at this site has slowed way down.

I don’t keep track of the pseudonymous articles that I write solely for the money (and shit wages at that) but I would guess that this year it would come out to about two hundred to three hundred thousand words. Of far more interest is my creative work. This past year I have written two novels, nine short stories and novelettes, and about fifty blog posts, most of which have been reviews of books I have read. Of these words I have a more precise count. My creative work, which I do mainly in the evenings between nine and eleven when everything else is done, came out to 158,897 words. My best word count was in August, when I was deeply into writing a science fiction novel. That month I managed 16,919 words. The month with my lowest word count, 6,919 words, was October. That’s when I was proofreading a novel that I wrote earlier in the year. That novel was published on Christmas Day 2020. More on that in next week’s blog post.

I don’t know how other writers do it, but as for me, I feel depressed if I don’t write steadily. I’m not talking about those crappy articles I do for money (although if truth be told I put my best work into those too – there’s just not much of substance in them) – I’m talking about my creative work, my art. I have to do it or I feel unfulfilled, so I set a daily word count for myself of a minimum of five hundred words. I usually reach this quota about six days a week, although I set the quota aside if I am busy proofreading already finished work. If I don’t have an idea ready to go, I somehow come up with one, even if it takes a day or two of squeezing and pummeling my brain. Once I get rolling on a story or novel, even if I am unsure of its direction, I can usually keep going and make it up as I go along.

So that’s been my year: producing words, both commercial and artistic, while I watch the world burn. It looks like the clouds are parting and we’re going to have some healing ahead, but it’s going to be a slow, arduous process that will require a lot of patience. As I wrote previously in “A Christmas Lament,” dry your tears, bind your wounds, and anticipate the better days to come with relief, forgiveness, hope, and good will.

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