At the beginning of 2020, I decided that instead of having resolutions, I would have focus words, specifically: learn, create, and appreciate. If I could have predicted 2020, I might have chosen words more like survive, tolerate, and “resist the urge to go on a murderous rampage that ends with a lot of dead anti-maskers and you spending the rest of your life in prison.” But I did not, and believe it or not, despite everything, I have continued trying to focus on my focus words.

They’ve meant different things to me over the course of the year. I think I acknowledged my appreciation of clean water a lot more often in March than I do today, and I know my first month after moving into Serendipity included appreciation of my comfortable bed every single evening. Now I mostly take it for granted. Comfortable bed, yay!

Initially, I think I defined “learn” as, “read a chapter of a non-fiction, educational book, designed to help me become better at my self-publishing career.” That’s evolved over the course of the past eight months, to include reading a blog post that teaches me something, doing a video lesson on Udemy, or practicing a new skill. In the same way, “create” started out by meaning “write some fiction words,” and it’s evolved into “do something that feels creative,” whether that’s writing, drawing, graphic design, or even cooking. One day last week, for example, “learn” was reading about bread pudding, and “create” was inventing my own bread pudding recipe, for a savory bread pudding that used sourdough bread, manchego cheese, chicken broth, and sausage with mushroom and smoked gouda. (It was delicious; I probably should have written it down at the time, because I doubt I could ever create it the same way again.)

Most often in the past few months, though, “learn” has meant learning to use graphics software. It’s a task that’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed by. There’s so much to learn, so much one can do. I have to remind myself sometimes that my ultimate goal isn’t to become a great artist, but to be able to make covers for my own stories. And in that respect, I’m really quite pleased with yesterday’s labors:

book cover for Daughter of Flame
Image credits to and Sebastian Unrau via

I did another cover last week, which I then used for a short story in my Scribbles section (found at Sunset,) but this one is for the story I’ve been working on for the last couple months. It’s nowhere close to finished and that might not be its real title, but I’m very pleased with its pretty cover. And also with all the learning that went into that cover — it uses masking and blend modes and glyphs and overlays, and lots and lots of layers.

So many times over the past six months, I’ve felt ready to give up. The frustration, the feeling like I’m spinning my wheels, the “why bother?” has all gotten to me. But today I appreciate my persistence.