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Lessons Found in the Lost Year


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The Indie Way with Erika Liodice

Over the past year, the global pandemic has cost us all so much that 2020 has become known as “the lost year.” Considering that time is our most precious unrenewable resource, I can’t justify writing off an entire year as lost, so I’ve been thinking about what I gained in 2020.

Today, I’m sharing some of my experiences from the lost year and the lessons I’ve found within them—as well as reflection prompts to help you consider how they might apply to your life and writing journey.

  1. Being Adaptable is More Effective than Being in Control.

At some point along the way, I got it into my head that I am in control. I’ve set goals. I’ve tracked calories, miles, followers, wordcount, the weather, my mood. I’ve boiled my hopes and dreams down to a series of metrics and captured them in elaborate spreadsheets, hoping to uncover the magical combination that unlocks happiness, fulfillment, and success.

Control is the antidote I’ve reached for to ease my fear and uncertainty about the future.

Control is one of the many things the lost year has taken from us.

And yet, when I take stock of the best things in my life, I can’t help but notice a common thread: they were all beyond my control. I met the love of my life on a train when we randomly sat next to each other on our evening commute home from Manhattan. He and I stumbled upon the town we currently live in when we were on vacation, trying to escape a string of bad weather. I discovered the unforgettable forgotten sport of pigeon racing, which inspired my children’s book series High Flyers, one day while driving on the highway.

These random moments became some of the best things in my life not because I was trying to find romance or a place to live or a new book idea but because I was paying attention and ready to act when the right person, place, and idea appeared.

The lost year has shown me how little is within my control, and experience has reminded me that that’s ok. Striving to be adaptable, rather than in control, gives us the freedom to follow curiosity and joy to unexpected places and respond when opportunities present themselves.

Reflection: In what ways are you trying to control your writing project, publishing goals, or creative process? What resistance are you encountering? What could happen if you let go of control?

  1. Our Expectations Shape Our Experiences.

For many of us, the lost year has meant watching opportunities slip through our fingers. For me, 2020 was shaping up to be an exciting year for my author visit program, which was expanding to elementary schools in different states.

And then the pandemic hit. Schools closed and travel shut down.

I scrambled to retool my author visits for Zoom and YouTube Live, but I quickly discovered that the essence of those programs got lost in the ether. At my in-person events, kids typically press their noses against my bird cage for a close-up view of my racing pigeons. They ask me questions about the colorful race bands they see on the birds’ legs and the unique patterns on their wings. When I’m not looking, they sneak their little fingers through the cage bars and try to pet the birds. They giggle if they witness a dropping. During my presentation, their hands shoot up to ask questions and volunteer stories. Afterwards, we go outside to the playground where they watch the pigeons race and cheer for their favorite bird. They leave the program with a light in their eyes and smiles on their faces.

Put a computer screen between us, and most of that magic disappears. One web cam can’t capture all the angles to bring that experience to life. And without the ability to see their faces, I feel like I’m talking into a void. So, I decided to put the programs on hold.

This experience helped me see that my expectations had become a liability because they were causing me to feel angry, frustrated, and sad when things didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. It reminded me that once we turn our ideas into action and send them out into the world, they take on a life of their own and we have little control over the outcomes. The only thing we can control are our expectations—and they can single-handedly make or break our experiences.

As of right now, I don’t know when my next in-person author visit will be, but I trust there will be a time and place for them again. Letting go of my expectations, has allowed me take back my sanity and devote that mental energy to my creative process.

Reflection: How are your expectations affecting your writing journey? What could happen if you let go of those expectations and embrace the outcomes as they unfold?

  1. Gratitude Puts Everything into Perspective.

A few months ago, I received an unexpected package from my mom. When I opened it, I found a pair of soft, fluffy slipper socks inside along with a note, “Hope they keep you warm.” These random acts of kindness are status quo for my mom—I’ll make a joke about how I still have cold feet even though we now live in Florida, and she’ll mail me a pair of slipper socks.

Prior to the pandemic, this gesture would have made me smile, and then I would have tucked the socks in my drawer and sent her my thanks via text. But after so much time apart, so many miles between us, and so many lives lost, I found myself staring at the socks through tears, acutely aware of what a profound gift it is to have a mother who is alive and well and cares enough about my cold feet to take time out of her day to buy me slipper socks and go to the post office during a global health crisis to ship them halfway across the country. What I once would have viewed as a small act of kindness suddenly felt like one of the most meaningful gestures in the world. That day, I didn’t send my thanks via text; I called her, and we talked for an hour.

That experience made me wonder—if receiving a pair of socks could make me feel like the luckiest person in the world, what would happen if I allowed myself to feel that level of gratitude for all the “small” gifts in my life?

I started with the basics…

During a year when so many people have struggled to breathe, I am grateful to have air in my lungs.

I am thankful for my health and the health of my husband, my family members, and friends.

In this time of scarcity, when so many people are hungry, struggling to pay their rent, and living on the streets, I am grateful to have food in my stomach and a safe place to sleep.

Though I resent not being able to see my family and friends, I am grateful to have those important relationships in my life. And I’m thankful for the technology that keeps us connected virtually until we can be together again.

Once I got started, it was hard to stop. Soon, I felt my energy transform in a powerful way. Those simple words of gratitude shifted my mindset from one of loss and negativity to one of abundance and hope. And in the space where the mental clutter used to be, I found words and story ideas starting to take shape.

Reflection: What “small” gifts and random acts of kindness have you been taking for granted? How might gratitude help reframe your writing journey?

Moving Forward

The lost year may have taken a lot, but it’s also taught me a lot. And the lessons I’ve found beneath my disappointment, anger, and sadness are propelling me towards the future with an open mind, grateful heart, and optimism that the next best thing is right around the corner.

What lessons or gifts have you found during the lost year? How are they shaping your life and creative process?

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About Erika Liodice

Erika Liodice is an indie author and founder of Dreamspire Press, where she is dedicated to teaching curious minds about unknown worlds through story. She is the author of Empty Arms: A Novel and the children’s chapter book series High Flyers. She is also a contributor to Author In Progress, the Writer Unboxed team’s first anthology. To learn more about Erika and her work, visit erikaliodice.com.

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