Most years, I track my writing obsessively.
I have a little notebook where I write down everything I’ve done each month. I take note of every project, every day’s wordcount, and every Big Life Event. In past years I’ve written “book tour” and “funeral” and “divorce paperwork” and “diagnosis” at the bottom of those pages. I’ve written “made a new friend” and “awards nomination” and “said ‘I love you’”.
This practice is a little silly, but it’s a good anchor. It serves as a way to remind myself that I’m more than my work; that things other than writing deservedly take up my attention. It’s a way to prevent end-of-the-year-Gailey from being upset that enduring-the-year-Gailey didn’t accomplish more.
Wordcount isn’t virtue and it isn’t value. It’s just a number.
Still, I like to keep track. I like to be able to look back at the months and see that yes, I did in fact do things. I work hard, and I know it will never be enough, but at least I can grab onto that hard work in the form of data for a fleeting moment of reflection, and I can say to myself, you did that.
It usually works pretty well, and I think it would work well now, too. Except, well. I lost that notebook in June.
I’ve still got my Terrifying Nightmare Spreadsheet, with all my deadlines on it going all the way back to 2016. From that, I can glean some data, which I’ll record at the bottom of this post for future reference (when you’re the kind of mentally ill that I am, it’s good to write things down so you don’t have to try to rely on memory). But I don’t have anything that I can lean on to remind myself that I was Productive Enough in 2020.
I think that’s for the best.
Here’s what I do have: A garden that feeds my family. A well-stocked freezer and pantry that will keep us from having to go to stores for the next couple of months. A thriving community of subscribers, who care for each other and support each other well. A small folder of treasured emails from people who are happier because my books are in the world. A living body that may not work very well, but which does its best to move my brain from room to room. Friends who I trust and love. A family that I wouldn’t trade for anything. A future.
This year tried so hard, from so many angles, to take away the things we rely on. At many turns, it succeeded. But here we are: whether we are whole or in pieces, you and I made it to the final days of 2020. We found ways to get each other this far, and that process meant so much more to me than a column of numbers in a notebook. I used to rely on that column of numbers more than I care to admit — but now I have other things to rely on. And it’s so much better this way.
In 2020, I released 2 new books as well as a paperback version of a book that was already out in the world. I wrote 2 new novels, 4 new novel outlines and pitches, 2 comic book scripts, 4 short stories including the best microfiction I’ve ever done, 2 nonfiction pieces for major outlets, and (I think this is right) 71 pieces for this Substack. I wrote somewhere around 30 recipes. I wrote a wedding.
In all, according to The Spreadsheet, I wrote around 322,400 words in 2020.
I’m happy with the number. But more than that, I’m happy that I’m here to see it. And I’m happy that you’re here, too.
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