Lessons of 2021

I’m feeling philosophical today. The question is: What wisdom has 2021 brought? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Deadlines can be deadly: Not exactly deadly in the physical sense but incredibly draining. In late 2020, I optimistically set March 30th as the target to publish Paris In Ruins. At that point I had promises for several endorsements, a cover design, a fully edited manuscript, and a husband prepared to do the work of getting the novel up on various retail platforms. I had also hired marketing support to help with the launch and getting everything set for a marketing campaign.

What I hadn’t fully comprehended were two items: (1) the workload and intensity involved on my part to support the marketing of Paris In Ruins; and (2) the impact of going live with registration for the HNS 2021 conference in the same time period. Lesson: always add buffer time into the projects you take on. Don’t say yes to everything.

Volunteer work takes on a life of its own: Many of you will know of the HNS 2021 virtual conference that ran in June, either because you attended or because you read some of my posts about various sessions. In my case, as registration chair, the time period from opening registration to conference go-live was an intense period of tracking numbers, fixing problems, pulling together reports, and trouble-shooting. At the same time, each board member took on responsibilities for moderating panels, running conversation rooms, prepping panelists, learning the new technology we had in place to run the conference. While I did not take on as many of these tasks as others on the board, the workload, when combined with registration, was heavy. Lesson: go in with your eyes open and allocate more time than you think might be required.

Be kind and gracious even when frustrated: What do they say about catching more flies with honey than vinegar? I have to confess to having forgotten this advice a few times this past year and blasting away with a sharp-tongued response or a crabby email. You would think I should know better. Perhaps it was the accumulated stress of Covid layered on top of an incredibly busy year? Perhaps it was the added worry of watching my mother lose more and more of her cognitive skills coupled with the increasing amount of my help that she needed (and still needs). Perhaps it was the hours of connecting with people via technology rather than face-to-face. Perhaps it was the ongoing challenge of being an author in a time when everything seems stacked against you. As I said in another post, “If you go to bed at night and you’re not proud of the person you were that day, then you’ve done something wrong.” Lesson: always be kind. Remember that others may have challenges of their own. It’s not always about you.

Make time for yourself: A good friend recently sent around some materials on mindfulness. The topic prompted me to reflect. After musing for a while, I was struck by the need to set aside time to refresh, to contemplate, to do something pleasurable, to go for a walk or a bike ride or a game of golf. I think I’ve allowed myself to be on too much of a treadmill. Lesson: your own mental, spiritual, and physical health are very important.

Don’t underestimate the value of family, friends, and community: At the end of my life, what will I be without family, friends and community? Friends and family nourish the soul. Community makes us realize that we are part of something bigger. While I’m proud of the business career I had, and delighted with the novels I’ve written, these aspects of my life shouldn’t define me. Lesson: put family, friends, and community at the top of my priorities.

Smiles are powerful. I haven’t smiled as much this year as I usually do, and I need to get my bubbly self back. In our mask-wearing world, it’s more difficult to give and receive smiles. One thing I’ve realized is how much I like to smile and the energy I receive from the smiles of others. And remember, people can see you frown, even when you’re wearing a mask. Lesson: smile more … frown less.

What has 2021 taught you? I would love to hear your thoughts and your words of wisdom.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available for pre-order on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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4 Responses

  1. Mary, I love this news letter. Everything about it is so true and sometimes so easy to forget in the rush of the moment.

    Thank you so much for your thoughts today. Perfectly timely.

    Peace and comfort in all you do.

    Diane Diane C. McPhail dianecmcphail1@me.com 395 North Cobb Road | Highlands, NC 28741 dianemcphailauthor.com Author of THE ABOLITIONIST’S DAUGHTER (Kensington Books)


  2. I’ve learned that ignoring the conventional ‘wisdom’ and working on my dearest priority is freeing.

    Best wishes for the coming year, Mary, and good health to you and yours,

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