WHY WAIT TILL 2021?

I know 2020 has been challenging for, well… pretty much everyone, and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to 2021 to at least be better, less miserable, less divisive, less deadly. I have no superstitious or metaphysical component to my life but I’ll admit that, this year especially, I’ve been drawn into the “let’s blame 2020” thing, a sort of uber-meme that assigns, usually sarcastically, some evil agency on the part of a year. It was a presidential election year but there’s one of those every four years. The COVID pandemic was the real big event—a still-unfolding disaster. But a virus has no way of understanding human constructs like years—or any other human constructs beyond our oh so tasty lungs. And anyway, COVID-19 was a creation of 2019. So let’s blame 2019 for that.

Or better yet, let’s not “blame” any year at all.

I went through some stuff this year, and again, I’m as ready to blame that on 2020 as the next guy. My little work-from-home bubble was intruded upon by my family—three adults who were sent home from work or school to suddenly be the unwanted “associates” in Athans & Associates. They didn’t do anything wrong, being quarantined, furloughed form work, relegated to online university… I let distractions distract me. I more or less stopped writing—why? I went from breezing through two consecutive 52-book GoodReads challenges to now be sitting at only 28 books read (for pleasure that is) so far in 2020—running seventeen books behind schedule—why? I love writing and I love reading, but I set both aside to… what? I can’t even remember.

Blame it on 2020—or myself.

I think the latter is the real culprit, at least one very real crisis aside.

So now here I am in the middle of November having made some promises to myself to turn some things around in 2021. I’ve tweeted a few of those things—whatever that does. And I’ve set calendar reminders and thought of another New Years Resolutions post here but… why? If the coronavirus doesn’t know or care what year it is, why should I/?Okay, maybe for tax accounting, but deciding to read more? To write more? To involve myself in things? To restart long-dormant hobbies? All these things were, over the course of the summer and early fall, planned for the mythical utopia of 2021, leaving me apparently deciding to wait another month and a half before I live my life, as though I’m now somehow committed to staying miserable to finish off 2020 at maximum miserableness?

Nonsense. I have control over at least some aspects of my life—we all do. I can’t cure COVID or rebuild the economy, or any of those big things, but there are still the same twenty-four hours in a day, and I have a larger measure of control on how I parse those hours out than most people do, so let’s get on with it. That said, here are my November 17 Resolutions.

I’m going to write at least a little bit every day—not because I have to but because I want to.

I’m going to read more, at least at the pace I was running with my previous GoodReads challenges, because I love reading and it’s fun to have those community goals with other readers.

I’m going to “get out there” even as we go back into a COVID quarantine period. How? By doing what I know a whole bunch of people have been doing for at least the last year or so: virtually.

Sticking with this one… I thought about this and decided to add it to my “starting in 2021 list,” then when I realized why wait, I started at Eventbrite, which hosted the Chicago Screenwriters seminar on writing monsters I did last month, set the filter to “free,” and started signing up for stuff. Not in 2021, but right now. The first event is tomorrow (November 18): the Los Angeles Times Virtual Book Club: The Worlds of Octavia Butler. I love Octavia Butler—why would I not want to do this? 

Then, instead of vacuously binge watching TV shows (or whatever) this Saturday I’ll be online for four and a half hours for TEDx Seattle. I’m gonna get smarter—I can feel it already!

Next week, on the 25th, something called Humpday Comedy that just seems to be standup comedy? Okay—why not?

And I kept going into December, starting on the 5th with a big one—this might test my resolve—the 27th Barnard College Medieval and Renaissance Conference, which, because we’re on opposite coasts, starts at 6:00 in the morning—but I get up early. Why not spend the day doing that, at least coming in and out of it, until 3:30 in the afternoon? And why this? Well, I have always had an interest in medieval history and have spent my life in medieval fantasy in one form or another, and am still there. Will this make me at least an incrementally better author and editor of fantasy fiction? I bet it will!

I’m also signed up for the Virtual Writing Hour with the National Portrait Gallery on December 15—in which I will get my writing on. And I’ll get it back on on the 28th with Feeling Fiction: Feeling Your Way to Short Fiction because if I decide I know everything about writing fiction, that’s when it’s all over for me. I’m alive, so I’m learning.

So… want to sign up for some of those with me? Already signed up for other stuff like this? Have one coming up that you can recommend? Please do!

The last two things on my list of November 17 Resolutions are to get back to having some kind of hobby or hobbies, and reintroducing myself to friends. I’ll try not to let those two wait another month and a half either.

So then how does all this stuff help you be a better fantasy author? Well, all of us struggle with fallow periods, and all of us have had to deal with things that have been thrown at us in the past year or so, but all of us also have the capacity to say in some form or another, “Well, that sucked, now let’s walk it off.” Like me, has your writing suffered? Decide it suffers no more. Are you lonely and homebound like almost everyone right now? There are ways to get “out there” and write with people, share your work, share in other authors’ work, and learn something through various online courses or conferences that can help inform your writing.

I can be a bit of an old dog, and if I can learn new tricks, anyone can. Let’s get writing, let’s get reading, let’s get some version of “out there” now, and not wait for the arbitrary flip of a calendar.

—Philip Athans

Follow me on Twitter @PhilAthans

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Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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1 Response to WHY WAIT TILL 2021?

  1. Great suggestions! I will check a few of them out. You might want to check out Continual: The Con That Never Ends. This came out of ConCarolinas when they had to cancel their conference this year. Instead, they run programming on Facebook continually. Here’s the link to the events page:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ConTinual/events

    For kicks, I’ll be on their next Author Spotlights day, Nov. 28 at 1pm EST. Just a quick 30 minutes, and I’m sharing it with Marisa Wolf, but I’m excited. This will be my first official con appearance as an author.

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