Saying Good-Bye to 2020

Is it over yet?

We are finally nearing the end of the year that none of us will forget.

As Christmas approaches, people everywhere will blow kisses and wave to their loved ones in video calls assuring each other that “things will be different next year.” Some of us will not be able to help the tears. Video is not the same as being with family and friends, but it’s a welcome upgrade from a phone call.

Like so many people, I am deeply grateful for the many blessings I have, and the hardships I have been spared.

Still, I admit I am wistful for the simple pleasures of tradition and long to travel to see family and friends. 

Thinking about all of the pain and suffering this year brings to mind a speech given by the Queen of England some years ago to sum up a particularly difficult year in the royal family.

“…not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.”

Her Majesty the queen
Her Majesty’s 40th Anniversary as Queen

It was in 1992 on the occasion of her 40th anniversary on the throne that the Queen gave us one of her most memorable speeches.

Just four days earlier, a terrible fire tore through Windsor Castle and destroyed a hundred rooms. It started with a spotlight burning through a curtain in a private chapel. This heartbreaking loss came in a year where London paparazzi had descended like locusts on the royals, stinging and biting in pursuit of the latest gossip to spread.

There was much to feast upon as three royal marriages crumbled, including the fleeting fairytale union of the dearly loved Diana and her Prince Charles. Add to that the stories of “Camilla, the Secret Love” along with salacious pictures of Fergie, the Duchess of York circulating in the tabloids and we can see why one television presenter breathlessly summed up the Queen’s year as “twelve months of toe-curling scandal.”  

…it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis’. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty.”

Her Majesty the queen

What an apt way to describe our experience with 2020. 

In closing, might I suggest that if you are planning to use “annus horribilis” in your annual holiday letter this year that it would pay to carefully check your spelling. There has already been more than enough trouble to endure this year without inviting ridicule.

The Battle with Perfectionism


A Writer’s Log

Amazingly, I am hitting some kind of a stride in my novel about art forgery in 1914.  I am traipsing around in the world of Monet’s garden, Paris art supply shops, New York Auction Galleries and the Manhattan homes of some very rich people who have more money than taste. Finally the writing is flowing. It is a most satisfying feeling, and I will only take a minute to post this, then indulge in another 8 minutes on social media distraction before I get down to work again.

Writing fiction is freeing when it is not torture. Writing is easier when one resists the siren pull of all things around writing that are not writing: research, building an author platform, and reading great books.  It is so easy to justify getting lost, especially in social media. And then, once a writer musters the necessary commitment to advance the manuscript, there is the ever looming fear of looking like a fool.

Perfectionism lurks over our heads, polluting the landscape, filling us with doubt and driving us back to the time wasters, or the fridge. If you think too much about the quality of what is being written, your confidence withers and your writing session crumbles away.  What is a writer to do? In my case help came from trolling Twitter where I found a link to the inspiring and wise words of Anne Lamott, a writer who has much to say about writing and life in her book Bird by Bird.  Lamott advises us to remember that you can’t get to the third and fourth drafts until that first lousy one is down, and the first one is just for you.

So just write.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” Anne Lamott

Now back to writing.  I am having lunch with Claude Monet today. Can’t wait.


p.s.  A note about the picture: This is Flora Miller at her typewriter, taken in 1919, and found in the online collection of the Library of Congress.