It’s goal-setting time again. While I have several specific goals—including the launch of The Remainders in September, finishing my new novel Haunted, and reaching my goal weight—it’s helpful to link them to a single theme. This year, it comes down to a question: How do I increase and deepen my connections with others?
In a year when we had to isolate physically, we valued personal connections even more. We may joke about Zoom meetings, “You’re on mute,” and replacing slacks with sweatpants. But virtual connections aren’t mere substitutes. They can open opportunities for connection we wouldn’t have if we had only met in person.
At work, I’m on a team with members in Hungary and Canada. Our daily meetings on Microsoft Teams enable us to share status instantly that would take us a day or so in email. It’s hard to imagine having this type of communication when we go back to the office. Through the Write Or Wrong Virtual Book Club, I’ve built close and supportive bonds with other indie authors. At WW, we’ve switched to virtual workshops since our physical workshops have been closed. I can now learn and share experiences with members around the country. These are the types of connections I want to strengthen and grow over the coming year.
As part of promoting The Remainders, I did my list of 400 comparable books and authors as I did for Amiga. As I did this list, I found several authors who write the type of books I do. Some of them live in my area. I plan to reach out to them, not just to get blurbs for my book, but to see how I can support them with theirs. We can work together to broaden our writing community, which in turn will build our mutual readership. One thing I’ve learned from Amiga is that we sell books to one reader at a time, no matter how many books we sell. Broadening networks will enable us to reach more readers.
More importantly, connection will help us deal with the most serious problem we face: How do we heal the divisions in our society?
I decided years ago not to unfriend people I disagreed with. My conviction was tested over the past year. I had to let go of a few people who expressed anti-Semitic and violent views. As I continue to reach out to others, I will come across more people who will disagree with me. I will meet Trump supporters who are as upset with the outcome of this election and worried about the future as I was four years ago. Where can we find common ground so we can get through the crises we face?
This is where art can help. We can open ourselves to understanding their perspectives while giving them insight into the lives of others. This is what I’ve done in every novel I’ve written. I make a point of including someone whose views differ from mine and humanize them. I want to understand their stories, motivations, dreams, and fears. I can then create a vision where people where different viewpoints can share ideas and work together.
It’s something I learned about art nearly two years ago. Art makes us feel. When we feel, we care. And when we care, we want to do something.
I realize that we can’t reach everyone. Racists, extremists, and other hate-filled people existed long before Trump became president. They would have been hateful had he not become president, and they would still be hateful had he been reelected. While there have been cases of people leaving white supremacist and conspiracy theory groups, those have required the intervention of family members and some deep epiphany on their part. We might not reach the deeply entrenched and unbalanced, but there may be some who might see enough light to change.
These are the reasons connection is my theme for 2021. I hope you make it yours as well. After the year we had, we all need to deepen our connections.