I may have set a new personal record last month: most days without writing. I’m guessing a big part of it is pandemic fatigue. It’s hard to keep up the creative flow in the dumpster fire that is 2020. Plus, when the world you live in is a real-life dystopia . . . Anyway, my writing is at a total standstill.
However, it’s that time of the year: time to review old goals and set new ones. I did learn one good lesson from this year: sometimes I get so wrapped up in my “to do list” (particularly my writing “to do list”) that I forget to live. While writing is a huge part of my life, focusing on my writing too much is actually BAD, both in general and for my writing.
This was best illustrated in camping season this year. I was really excited about camping since we didn’t get to camp last year. However, I ended up getting caught up in my writing deadlines and submission calls, and I spent a big part of my camping days sitting inside the camper, writing and editing. Toward the end of the season, I finally put away my laptop and got out and actually enjoyed the camping trips. Then I was sad because I’d wasted most of my camping season inside, pounding away at my laptop!
Hemingway said, “The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
This is great advice, especially considering the uncertainty in these crazy times. I mean, if I end up lying in my death bed, what do I want to look back on? The camping trip with my daughter where we got lost in Pembina Gorge, or the night I stayed up until I was exhausted trying to finish off a story before the deadline?
So, as important as writing is (and all the other things that occupy my “to do” list), I need to remember to set them aside more often. I need to remember to live with gusto. So, to circle back to the original topics of goals, I’m going to revise next year’s goals to leave more room for living with gusto.
Keeping my new “live with gusto” philosophy in mind, here’s the breakdown on how I did for 2020 and what my goals are for 2021. Three goals are my “set in stone goals” (the personal goal of exercise, the writing stories goal, and the 500Stories500nights–which I intend to keep long after 500 stories). The rest of the goals are moving to the same priority as “Fix my website.” 😉
Set in Stone: On a personal level, one of my goals is to get back on the workout track. I’ve built a pretty decent home gym over the years, but my use of it has been sporadic. I’m going to do better.
Flexible: Read more scholarly work. This is a goal new to this year. For that, I’m starting by reading the collected essays of Lovecraft.
Flexible: Fix my website. In 2020, I made some progress, but there is a lot more work to do. For 2021, I’m going to continue improving my website.
Set in Stone: (was) Write and submit eight new stories. In 2020, I finished six, and the seventh is nearly done. I’m lowering the quota on this one. For 2021, I plan to write and submit six new stories.
Flexible: Submit three reprints. In 2020, I achieved this goal. For 2021, I plan to keep the same goal.
Set in Stone: Participate in the #500Stories500Nights Challenge. November marked one year of participation in the challenge for me. For 2021, I plan to keep the same goal, and I plan to take it beyond the 500 and just keep it as “I’m going to read/listen to one short story every day for the rest of my life.”
Speaking of #500Stories500Nights, here is my reading list for last month.
- 1: “Thank You for Your Life,” by C. Bryan Brown (The Wicked Library 1014)
- 2: “Market Value,” by Gerri Leen (The Overcast 93)
- 3: “Breeze Point,” by Curtis Sittenfield (The Chronicles of Now, 8-12-20)
- 4: “An Infinite Number of Idiots,” by Robert Jeschonek (StarShipSofa 626)
- 5: “Sibyl,” by Carys Davies (Selected Shorts 10-22-20)
- 6: “Love in the Balance,” by David D. Levine (Drabblecast 417)
- 7: “Ages of Death,” by SW Pisciotta (Tales to Terrify 456)
- 8: “Dead Man’s Shoes,” by Ashley Thorpe (Tales From Beyond the Pale 41)
- 9: “Cordona’s Skull,” by Mary Elizabeth Counselman (Pseudopod 719)
- 10: “Ghoul,” by George Saunders (The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 11-3-20)
- 11: “Face Value,” by Sean Williams (LeVar Burton Reads, 9-9-19)
- 12: “A Drama,” by Anton Chekhov (Selected Shorts, 11-5-20)
- 13: “I Decline,” by Cat Rambo (Daily Science Fiction, 11-6-20)
- 14: “Vis Delendi,” by Marie Brennan (Uncanny Magazine 27B)
- 15: “A Shadow Over Innsmouth,” by HP Lovecraft (Drabblecast 434)
- 16: “The Soup Witch’s Funeral Dinner,” by Nicole LeBoeuf (Cast of Wonders 431)
- 17: “Status Report,” by John Wray (Chronicles of Now, 7-29-20)
- 18: “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts,” by Anthony Veasna (The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 2-4-20)
- 19: “Little Man,” by Michael Cunningham (LeVar Burton reads, 10-26-20)
- 20: “In Paris,” by Ivan Bunin (Selected Shorts, 10-29-20)
- 21: “Rats,” by HP Lovecraft (Drabblecast 413)
- 22: “Eight to the Eighth,” by Liam Hogan (Cast of Wonders 412)
- 23: “The Lightkeepers,” by Jude Reid (Tales to Terrify 458)
- 24: “The Horror in the Museum,” by Hazel Heald and HP Lovecraft (Nocturnal Transmissions 41 & 42)
- 25: “Eyespots,” by Shannon Fay (Daily Science Fiction, 11-23-20)
- 26: “Indispensable,” by Wendy Nikel (Flash Fiction Online, November 2020)
- 27: “In Synch,” by Paul A. Freeman (Every Day Fiction, 11-30-20)
- 28: “The Mystical Art of Codeswitching,” by Sydnee Thompson (Tor.com, 10-19-20)
- 29: “The Science and Artistry of Snake Oil Salesmanship,” by Timothy Mudie (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 11-19-20)
- 30: “The Blue Cube,” by Lee Frazier Davis (Daily Science Fiction, 11-11-20)
I didn’t get much television time in last month, but I watched two episodes of the first season of the new Creepshow series. The first story, “Gray Matter,” was a little bit of a disappointment, but I expected it would be. It happens to be one of my favorite King stories, and television/movie adaptations almost always fall short of their books/short stories. After seeing how bad the television version of “The Raft” was, I was really worried. I did appreciate that Adrienne Barbeau starred, so that was a plus. The second story, “The House of the Head,” was better, though the ending left a little to be desired. Episode two was better because those two stories (especially “Bad Wolf Down”) really seemed to capture the old Creepshow feeling. Of the two stories in episode two, “The Finger” was my favorite. That story gets bonus points, too, since DJ Qualls was the main character and I’m a big fan (#CitizenZForever<3)!
On a sad note, we said goodbye to our beloved Abigail last month. It was sudden and unexpected, but she was an older dog (ten years old). I’m glad we got one last camping season with her. She wasn’t much for camping per se, and she wasn’t super crazy about going for walks in the woods, but she *loved* staring out the windows from her air conditioned, king-sized bed comfort at the squirrels.
A bit of good news for the month is that one of my short stories is available on the Nocturnal Transmissions podcast. While you listen to the fabulous voice talents of Kristin Holland, add a few episodes of Nocturnal Transmissions to your podcast feed. I know you’ll love it!
Also, don’t forget to pick up Brain Games ( from Third Flatiron Publishing), which includes my short story, “US Portal Service.” I love, love, LOVE these anthologies from Third Flatiron. The anthologies are all organized around a theme (like inventions, or alternate histories, or longevity), and it’s fun to see how different authors interpret the themes and the great stories they come up with (aliens and Jimi Hendrix? Yes, please!).
That’s all for now. Until next month, stay spooky!