Typically, my year-end progress report would have come last week, but I was still rebuilding my website. (If you haven’t seen it, take a look.) I had intentions for 2021. Nothing could have prepared me for what would happen. But in reviewing the year, I’m heartbroken at what 2021 took from me and grateful for the good things 2021 brought.
Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You probably break most resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life gets in the way of your plan, take care of that event or disturbance, intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention.
My intentions were that If I Should Die would have been celebrating its first publication date birthday. February changed everything.
During the following 90 days, I did whatever I felt like doing. If I didn’t feel like doing anything, I didn’t. At the beginning of May, I returned to my writing desk. My focus wasn’t back to normal. But I plugged away at the keyboard.
Mid-May I woke with my second bout of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. The first episode had been ten years earlier. I had forgotten it was possible that it would recur, so it took a few days before I figured out why I was so dizzy I didn’t dare move. That kept me from the keyboard until I figured out I could dictate to the computer without looking at it.
It took 90 days of therapy to get to where I could drive the car again. It took longer to get to where dizziness didn’t interfere with what I was doing.
In September I could finally endure longer days at the computer. I completed the first revision of If I Should Die the Saturday before Thanksgiving and sent it out to my beta readers.
I posted 75% of the posts I’d intended.
One of the wonderful surprises 2021 sprung on me was an invitation to take part in the Writers In the Storm blog. (I accepted, of course.)
Ongoing computer issues got worse, or maybe less tolerable, over the first half of the year. I tried several fixes and finally resorted to making a backup of everything, then wiping the computer’s memory and reloading everything. That seems to have worked brilliantly.
Redesigning my website became a necessity when the makers of my previous theme dropped it from being a supported theme. It took a little longer to get it functional with the new theme and there are things I want to fix or add in the future, but I am happy so far. Take a look.
Sadly, I only read five books in 2021. The focus and connection and joy had disappeared.
In happier news, I won a partial scholarship to the 20Books Vegas Conference in November. It took some scrambling to afford to go, but it worked out. I connected online with the kind and supportive J Lynn Hicks, author of YA dystopian novels, and we agreed to be roommates.
Before I went to the conference, I decided to focus on learning more about marketing there. Even if I attended them back-to-back, there were more panels about marketing than I could attend. I reveal a little of what I learned at the conference below.
With everything else going on, I had little motivation or energy for creating new ads. I focused instead on the ads I had. I studied them one-by-one, removed keywords that weren’t working. It didn’t take long for me to see better results from the ads. Sales trickled in.
Thanks to COVID, there was only one in-person book sale I could have attended. But I did not take part in the book sale day at 20Books Vegas.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered my sales increased over two hundred percent from the previous year.
I am deeply grateful for dear friends who have reached out in very supportive ways this entire year. You know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Life after a spouse’s death is full of decisions and changes. Don’t worry, I’m not making big changes like selling the house or anything. Instead, I’m deciding what possessions that were my husbands do I keep, sell, or donate. I don’t need to bore you with the all the details. But there are a couple I will share.
I’ve decided to make my work environment healthier and more efficient. Yes, as if I don’t have enough other things to do. My office is a spare bedroom. It is a disorganized mess. This project will take months to complete. My newsletter readers, Burrows Bookwyrms, will get to see some of what the process looks like.
Like many middle-class couples, we had my car and his car (an eight passenger van really). After my husband became wheelchair bound, I bought a wheelchair van. Selling his old van would have distressed him. So, we had three vehicles. Before COVID, I used my car for quick errands. After COVID, I think I used the wheelchair van twice. So in September and October, I sold the old his and her vehicles and traded in the wheelchair van for a new car.
Of course, the biggest event for 2021 was my husband’s death.
Plumbing issues, washer and dryer issues, reseeding the lawn, and the gas company’s decision to dig up my new grass to replace the gas meter filled much of my summer.
My trip to Las Vegas for the 20Books Vegas conference was my first trip anywhere in way too many years. There were uncomfortable moments during which I’d retreat to my room, but there were also many amazing moments of learning and connection.
Plans don’t always proceed the way we had intended. So it was with my trip to Memphis to meet my brother and his family. They had a last-minute event arise and could not meet me. They had paid for the VRBO house, so I packed up my dogs and went, anyway. The ten-hour drive there and back weren’t terribly relaxing, but the days I spent in Memphis were wonderfully restful.
What I Learned
The top ten most popular posts on my blog during 2021 are:
- Beware of Wet Footprints
- 13 Ways to be Creative When You Feel Unimaginative
- Creativity and You Don’t Have to be Perfect
- How to Create a Safe Place in Your Mind
- Fun Facts and Trivia about America’s Patriotic Music
- Story Time Reviews The Last Question
- 10 Warning Signs You’re Doing too Much
- 20 Weird Things I am Grateful For
- The Flowers of Hiroshima, a Book Review
- What if This Light Bulb is the Cure?
My 2021 focus word was productivity. Yeah. Didn’t happen.
Turns out I had two focus words. One was learning. I learned far too much about writing and publishing to share here. I’ll limit myself to share only a few nuggets.
Did you know? Vertigo can stubborn and not respond to therapy. Also, it can be caused by shifting crystals in both ears, but the therapist can only treat one ear at a time. That’s one of the things I learned last year.
Give Yourself Permission Not to Do It All.Marie Forleo
Permission was my second focus word. I learned I cannot do it all, especially while grieving, but even when all things are good. Most importantly, I learned to give myself permission to focus on my health and happiness. It’s not that I didn’t care about myself before. I did many things to care for myself through the years. But as the months marched onward, I thought I didn’t have time. Many times I didn’t. But that changed. Going to Vegas, listening to all the authors and presenters, finally made me understand I needed to give myself permission to do that.
I didn’t need permission to do what I loved. I still loved writing. It was a place of refuge, a place recharging, a place where the me I like flourished. I will never need permission to write. But focusing on myself, allowing myself to push past previous self-imposed limits—both personally and professionally—that was where I didn’t even see that I had set firm limits. Giving myself permission to go to a writer’s conference was the first step to identifying those subconscious limits I’d set. Attending the conference made me understand I need to give myself permission. Permission granted. Within reason. *smile*
I’m focusing on growth this year. Read my statement of what that means.
I will finish this second revision by the end of January and submit If I Should Die to my editor. After polishing the words, and proofreading, I will publish it this spring. I’ll have a date soon.
I will outline the third book in the Fellowship Dystopia series and begin drafting the rest of Miranda’s story.
Giving myself permission to focus on my business and myself is liberating. And I think it’s a lesson all of us need to remember. We can get so very obsessed with what’s going on, so busy taking care of details, that we forget to take care of ourselves. Especially when we’re in the second year of world-wide crisis (COVID, fires, earthquakes, severe weather events, etc.) I hope that this posts helps you to give yourself permission to let go of some of your stress in the coming year. Give yourself permission to feel joy or peace for however long you can. Give yourself permission to be kind to yourself and others. Feel the freedom and peace granting that kind of permission gives.
Did you enjoy this year-end progress report?
Is giving yourself permission an issue in your life?