What I Learned 2020

“What I learned in 2020” could be a joke. Sadly, last year’s problems will continue for a while. But I am a writer. And a business woman. A review of my year is still necessary.


a tree with circles instead of leaves and words like goals, ideas, strategy, marketing, etc in the circles--what I learned is to do a little of each

I use a couple of systems blended together to record and track my intentions each year. (If you need help creating your yearly plan try Orna Ross’s Go Creative.) I divide my intentions into four primary areas: Make (anything creative), Manage (anything business related), Market (advertising and anything related to advertising), and Home (everything else.) Last year started with an extensive list of intentions. By the end of the year, I thought I’d failed most of them.

I always think I’ve failed to accomplish the things I wanted to do at the end of the year. Therefore, I regularly review my intentions and what I do and don’t accomplish.


The Make portion of my intentions consumed 66% of my time. This came very close to fulfilling my intentions.

The plan was to finish the first draft, the revision draft, and publish If I Should Die, book two of the Fellowship Dystopia. I also included a stretch goal of outlining a novella and the next book in the Fellowship Dystopia. 

Did. Not. Fulfill those intentions. But I finished the first draft, created a revision draft outline, and had 25,000 words on the revision draft by the end of December. 

Also on the Make list was blogging three times a week. I got 94% of the posts done and online. 

What I learned in 2020 is that being preoccupied by pandemics and protests and national issues, revision takes more time.


image of a yellow street sign with the word project on it. The O in project is a maze with an arrow showing the entry and an arrow showing the exit. What I've learned is that most projects are a maze of intentions and getting things done

This area includes reading, production, statistics, website stuff, learning, and general office chores. It took approximately 23% of my time.

I purchased new artwork.

 Learning about ads and blurb writing and refining some writing skills were high on my intentions list. I completed 63% of the online classes I had intended to finish.

I read 66% of fiction books and 50% of the nonfiction I had intended to read. Ouch!

I did not finish setting up my new mail service and did not get newsletters changed over to the service. 

For my website, I had intended to revise the front page and add a couple of new pages. Those things did not get done. I kept up with updating plugins and the content management system.

What I learned in 2020 was that I had to recover some time. I reduced the time I spent on Social Media. And I didn’t watch the news. And I could focus better.


wordie with digital marketing in the center and sales activities surrounding it

My marketing intentions were small, as I only have two books to advertise. Trying out the various platforms and learning how to use digital ads took about 11% of my working time.

An ads class taught me how to advertise my books on Amazon.

I spent a lot of time studying blurbs and blurb writing.

A contest helped boost my newsletter membership.

Thanks to a friend, I appeared on the Mysterious Goings On podcast hosted by Alex Greenwood. My episode was fun thanks to the wonderful host.

What I learned in 2020 is that marketing is a whole ‘nuther skill.


I spent a lot of my energy, both physical and emotional, on the home front during 2020. (Are you surprised?)

My husband spent January in the hospital and a rehab center. February brought hours of doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and caregiving.

March brought the world a pandemic and self-quarantine. Just call me FaceTime Grandma.

July through September, my son renovated my large yard. He removed two overgrown (5-6 feet tall and 6-10 feet wide), old and scraggly bushes. Filled low areas of the yard with wheelbarrows full of soil. He verticut and re-seeded the lawn. I watered and watered and watered it.

Also in July, my 15-year-old Yorkie, Astro, became very ill. We eased his suffering and euthanized him on August 8th.

Car problems plagued us. The squirrels ate my Toyota Wheelchair van’s wiring. And my Suzuki needed a new ball-arm joint.

A friend died of cancer in December.

I learned to roll with the punches. And I learned that good happened amongst the bad. My husband’s health is stable for the first time in six years. 

What I Learned in 2020

I am human. I care about other people and the country. So I learned to acknowledge that caring takes energy. Even remote in quarantine, caring.

I learned to be kind to myself. Finding an hour or two of personal time each day became one of my priorities. That meant I would not meet some of my intentions. What I learned in 2020 was to be okay with taking care of myself during this unprecedented time. Did you learn to take care of yourself during 2020? 

A Decade of Growth and Change

Welcome back and Happy 2020! I hope you enjoyed your holiday(s). My last post, My Four Lessons of the Last Decade, was about the life lessons I learned. This post looks back at accomplishments and change. Now it’s the new year and a new decade. Time for new intentions. But before we make or discuss plans for the new year and new decade, let’s review the old year and decade. For me, it was a decade of Growth and Learning.

Image of gold 2020 against a brown background with Happy New Year message while we look back at a decade of growth and change.

The Beginning of the 2010s

In 2009, my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. My son was 30 years old and married for the second time. I had five grandchildren (two 9-year-olds, a seven years old, a six-year-old, and one one month old) and three dogs (8-year-old miniature schnauzer, a 7-year-old mixed breed, and a 4-year-old Yorkshire Terrier). a registered nurse at the local children’s hospital, I worked forty plus hours each week.

Writing was my weekend passion. I had been writing stories since 1980. Three stories for children and two science fiction novellas written in collaboration appeared in magazines.

I had written three novels and had begun the fourth. But it wasn’t right. By right I don’t mean perfect, I mean it was missing something. 

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.

Brene Brown

The novels didn’t work. They were missing an ingredient or two. I didn’t understand story engines or story structure or pacing. I wanted my passion to be more than a passion, but I had a dreamer’s idea of how to be a writer. The business of writing? No clue what that entailed. I had no tracking system or any system for improvement or progress. No author brand, scant social media presence, and no website. I began the decade with a burning desire to learn and grow as a writer.

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Last Year

In 2019, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Our three-bedroom ranch home is now seventy-years-old. Remodeling projects have made it more suitable for a wheelchair-bound individual. 

My son turned 40 and is married to the woman of his dreams. I have eight grandchildren (a 24-year-old, two 19-year-olds, a seventeen-year-old, a sixteen-year-old, two eleven-year-olds, and a four-month-old). Some of you may have realized the ages don’t line up with 2009—Your right, they don’t. I include precious grandchildren-by-marriage. 

I have three Yorkshire Terriers (a 14-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 2-year-old). 

And I retired from my nursing job two years ago. Writing full-time is a joy.

Image of a girl reading a book with stars and light streaming out of the book--much like me looking at my past decade of growth and change.

Growth and Change

One of my (our) challenges has been the many medical issues my husband has had over the past ten years. Those challenges are compounding. I sit in his room at a rehabilitation facility as I write this.

Over the past decade I learned about plot, story engines, story structure, pacing, and so much more. I learned to create systems for tracking progress, improvements, learning, and goals. I know that I’ve written more than one million words during the decade (no records for the first three years). 

I’ve refined my writing process and learned about self-publishing and marketing. I’m having moderate success with my two published books. The outline for book two of the My Soul to Keep series and I’ve written about 30,000 words of the first draft.

I have a social media presence, an author brand, and I blog regularly on my website. Blessed, I even have followers both on social media platforms and on my blog. *Yup, that’s you! Thank you.*

A Change of Perspective

Prior to completing my decade review, I had a poor opinion of what I had accomplished in the past. Tracking and reviewing has erased that opinion. Sure, I wanted to accomplish a ton more, but look at where I started. Without tracking systems, I would not know how much I achieved despite the many challenges I had. Knowing allows me to analyze what allowed me to accomplish things and what held me back Now I can see what areas I would like to improve for the next decade. And I’ve already started working toward another decade of growth and change.

There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.

Ronald Reagan

The two-word description for my past decade is Growth and Change. Have you done a decade review? What would be a two word description of your 2010s?

The Most Special Month

Welcome to December, the last month of the calendar year. As I thought about the posts for this month, my thoughts turned to December as the end of the year. But it’s not just an end. According to some, this is the most special month of the year.

The Most Special Month of Holidays

Image of a hand holding a Christmas tree of silver snowflakes and stars celebrating the Most Special Month

It’s a month of many holidays. See my posts from last year that gave you a little information about each holiday. 

I’ve established that Christmas is my favorite holiday in these posts. 

The Most Special Month of Birthdays

Image with pinned cards for each letter of the phrase Happy Birthday

December is THE birthday month. Why? 

For Christians (those who keep the spirit of Christianity), it’s the month we celebrate Christ’s birthday. That makes it an important birthday. 

The second reason it’s THE birthday month? It’s my son’s birthday. His birth was the very best give I ever got.

December also includes one of my best friends’ birthday. And it includes a beloved aunt’s birthday (though she passed away many years ago) . Plus, many of my internet friends have birthdays in December.

Finally, December is my birthday month. Yay!

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. Madeleine L’Engle

It’s the End of the Year

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.

Winston Churchill

It’s a time of year when we look back to see what we’ve accomplished and celebrated and lost. There are always some losses during a year. It’s the nature of things. 

There are always deaths and medical or emotional challenges during the year. These losses can cut to the quick.

There are always losses in things we didn’t do or accomplish or finish. Do you take those losses as signs of failures? I used to. But what if they aren’t failures? 

What if they were changes or new information? They may have been paths you tried and discovered didn’t work for you. Or they were an overly ambitious goal under the circumstances. Or they were something you thought you wanted and learned you really didn’t. Those aren’t failures. Those are steps on the path of life, on the path of learning.

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.

Oprah Winfrey

This year, try to see the losses as part of the balance of things, the circle of life (if you’ll excuse my use of that phrase). 

A Note for those who Find December Depressing

Don’t take this post as an admonishment if you suffer from depression. Depression is real. It can be more than “mental,” it can be a physical ailment. People who live with depression battle some of the most difficult demons in life and are some of the strongest people I know. 

I hope reading my post, Alone for the Holidays, will help. If depression is making your daily activities difficult, reach out for help. Visit the national mental health help site. If you don’t have a therapist or counselor, call SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-877-726-4727. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or Live Online Chat.

The Most Special Month

Make your December the most special month. Celebrate your learning, your growth, your achievements, your “losses,” and YOUR favorite holiday. Won’t you help me celebrate by sharing your end of year or holiday reflections?

Reviewing 2011: Measuring Success

As I read year-end reviews in the various online magazines and news sites that I follow, I realized that I have never done a year-end review of my own goals for the previous year. How can that be? I am an over-analyzer of epic proportions. I analyze things for my day job, for every major purchase, for gift purchases, for — well, everything. So how is it that I never look back at what I’ve accomplished for the year? I think I have been afraid to look back. Afraid that I’d be disappointed. Afraid that instead of measuring success I’d see failure.


Due to a number of personal crises in the past ten years, my writing had taken a back seat to dealing with other things. 2011 continued with numerous challenges. There were serious health issues in my immediate and extended family, overwhelming issues at my day job that sucked the energy right out of me, and emotionally wrenching events–the news that one of my dogs has a life-limiting health condition, and the hardest news of all, one of my family members is getting divorced. There were positive things I tried to do, but somehow things didn’t work out. It has been difficult to see the trees for the forest (Yeah, I know that’s backward – that has been my life).

And, for an optimist at heart, I tend to be rather harsh on myself. For example, as I was contemplating writing this post, I thought ‘how can I write a year-end review when I didn’t accomplish very much?’ Translate that to I didn’t finish my novel-in-progress nor did I finish my revision-in-progress. Thus I failed as a writer.

So all-in-all 2011 seems to have been a total bust.

Mrs. Darkside of the Force

Wait a minute. I think Mrs. Darkside has gotten her grips into me.

For those of you who have not been formally introduced, Mrs. Darkside is my alter ego. Her full name, Mrs. Darkside of the Force, says it all. She is the doubter, destroyer, and naysayer who used to haunt me a lot. Mrs. Darkside is a master at negative self-talk. Negative self-talk (I didn’t get anything done, I’m not very good, etc.) starts a self-fulfilling downward spiral of energy and self-esteem.

So how do you beat Mrs. Darkside? Learn to identify your cycles of negative self-talk is the first step. Naming Mrs. Darkside takes away her power and it refocuses you on the good, the hope, and the yes-I-can attitude. But even more important is learning to master positive self-talk. Honor yourself for your spirit, for the struggle to survive, for the desire to make good choices. Celebrate the good choices you did make. Take in the positives. Even when life events overwhelm you, celebrate the small steps such as “I got out of bed today,” “I got dressed,” or “I ate a healthy meal.” Count your successes, no matter how small. You’ll be amazed at how positive self-talk empowers you.

So, now that Mrs. Darkside is put firmly in her place, what have I accomplished in the past year?

What I Accomplished

My writing was given a higher priority in my life. (Previously, writing came after family crises, working the paying job, all household chores, etc., resulting in very low word counts for too many years.)

I took a total wreck of a novel I wrote more than 20 years ago and have crafted more than 32,000 words in revision, transforming the wreck into a thing of pride. For that, I have to thank Holly Lisle and her amazing How to Rewrite Your Novel course. Not all of her methods work for me, but studying her course gave me a bunch of new tools that do work.

HTML and CSS code and I became acquaintances and I crafted a website for myself.

With help from Kristen Lamb’s Blogging 101 course, I learned how to use Twitter and a blog to create my own writer’s platform. I also met a bunch of amazing friends as a result of that course and whose support and encouragement is something I count as a big positive for the year.

I wrote and published nearly 20,000 words in blog posts and online articles.

In addition, I wrote 11,000 plus words in my writer’s journal.

I created a new website and shopping cart for a new phase of my husband’s online business.

In the family activities category, I babysat grandkids, celebrated birthdays, celebrated another wedding anniversary with the man I love, had an overall successful year at work, and managed to keep my tiny rose garden alive for another year.

So, you might ask me, did you make any money writing in 2011? Not one red cent. Yet, my writing skills have improved significantly. My increased commitment to my writing is measurable in a markedly increased word count for the past year. I made a public statement that I am a writer with a website and a blog. My faith in my writing ability is stronger than ever and has been reinforced by the many wonderful comments I’ve received on my blog and through my website.

Looking Back & Forward

Looking back, I’d say that while 2011 held many challenges, it has been a success for me on a personal level and happily, a very successful year for me, the writer. I am looking forward to developing friendships, to writing more, and to the successes in store for me in 2012.

How about you? Does your version of Mrs. Darkside grab you when you look back at your progress? Are you measuring your success for 2011?

ETA: I don’t make progress posts every year, but you might want to see how my measuring success progressed over the years. Read “Lessons from 2017.