I watched on social media as people did what they could to survive this year. Some day drank and posted funny memes. Others were forced to homeschool their kids. Still others dealt with the sudden loneliness that comes with having to live like an introvert. Then there is me. I’m already introverted and I’m, by choice, not a parent. Drinking only really appealed to me if I was in a rare social situation during a normal year so until autumn hit I really didn’t drink that much this year either. I was deemed “essential” meaning I had to show up for work five days a week, spend up to three hours a day on public transit, and be in a mask for twelve straight hours while everyone else was comfortably at home. Those small numbers added to a large amount of stress and it wasn’t even June yet.
Race riots rocked my city in the early weeks of summer. After George Floyd’s murder, I had to watch as my old neighborhood was burnt to the ground. I live only two neighborhoods over even now and the fear was palpable even as the National Guard came in to calm things down. Many of the businesses along Lake Street are still rubble.
The heat set in for the long haul then. May, June, and July were exceedingly hot and my top floor apartment’s air conditioner faltered. It was cool enough for exercise only in the early morning hours otherwise I risked heat stroke. August finally came and so did the repair man, although by then I had acclimated to my sweaty settings. Summer turned to a short lived autumn that ended when October dropped several snow storms on Minnesota.
Through all of this I put my pent up energy into being creative. I put the finishing touches on three movie scripts, two horror and one sci-fi / fantasy. I put them into a couple screenwriting contests knowing they would win nothing because I wanted to the reader comments. Those comments lead me to turn one of my movie scripts into a novel. I’m 75,000 words in and the first draft is only chapters away from completion. I had been telling myself since I turned thirty that I would write said novel. 2020 gave me the opportunity to do it.
During the spring and summer months, I sweated away at my art desk where I started a new drawing series on black paper. It was a test for me since it required thinking the opposite way that you would on white paper. The results were better than I expected.
I also painted relentlessly. My last count was 39 paintings over the summer which is a lot since my day job keeps me away from my art and photography during the week. Quarantine allowed me the excuse to stay at home on weekends and work and I apparently was dreaming of tropical climates because I painted a lot of fish.
In the autumn I shifted gears to my annual horror drawing series. I didn’t get done as many as I wanted but the witchcraft theme kept me inspired and even made it’s way into the novel I was slowly working on.
In the time when I wasn’t at work being essential or working in my art studio, I was playing Animal Crossing. I haven’t played a video game since a year after the Wii came out so I was as surprised as you when I scoured the city for the last remaining Nintendo Switch which I found at the downtown Target on a cold March afternoon. My Switch says I’ve played an embarrassing 700 hours of that game this year, but it’s all good. My island is perfection and it kept away the loneliness during the summer months when it was too hot for me to get a good nights rest. It kept me connected to friends in other cities who also played.
In the few hours that I didn’t spend playing Animal Crossing, I had my nose buried in books by Stephen King, Deborah Harkness, and Kristin Hannah to name just a few. I finished off twenty or so books this year including “Little Women” which I couldn’t resist rereading. I happily binged Schitt’s Creek and The Queen’s Gambit and re-watched Gilmore Girls (my guilty pleasure). I even begrudgingly watched Tiger King and then wondered how such things could possibly happen in our world.
As this year draws to a close, I find myself wondering if it hadn’t been for this pandemic, would I have written that novel? Would I have found new inspiration using black paper? It’s awful that so many have suffered this year, but it gave me the free time I always wished for. I would like to think I would have worked on all this in a normal year but in reality I know I would have spent that creative time going to happy hours and movies with friends instead. This year afforded me time to reflect on what I want out of life creatively and that isn’t a bad thing. I miss my family who I haven’t seen since 2018, and have only seen two of my local friends in person this year (I stayed away because I work around people and didn’t want to spread anything to anyone). The art and writing was there for me like it always is. A constant companion.
Happy New Year to all of you. I hope you can find something to enjoy about the coming year.