Closing Thoughts on 2022 + Thoughts on 2023

John Scalzi

2022 is not going to go down as a vintage year in most people’s minds, and reasonably so — to be frank, very few years since 2017 have been exactly what I would call stellar — but it had its moments, both globally and personally. I have already noted my professional year, and on a personal note I would add that it was generally good as well. There were sad moments, including the passings of my Uncle Gale and my cat Zeus, There were also friends and family and very good times. Heck, my high school even gave me an award. On balance, the personal ledger on 2022 is into the black. Barely. But even so.

For 2023, I have a fair number of plans and schemes, as I always do for any new year, and I’m well aware that these plans and schemes may or may not come to fruition, some because they just fall by the wayside, and some because they are replaced by other plans and schemes that I either make up or am offered over the course of the year. So I can say with some confidence that I am not worried if I do not accomplish everything I have planned for 2023. It will make it just like every other year. I will do enough.

If I have one overarching personal goal for 2023, however, it is this: managing my bandwidth. 2022 was a fucked-up year in that regard, because the otherwise physically mild case of COVID that I got did a real number of my ability to focus — whether because of actual physical damage to my brain, or helping to accentuate my own general lack of focus, or (I think likely) some combination of the two. Whatever the cause, it caused a months-wide crater in my schedule where I would have wanted work to be, not just because I need money, but because I do like being busy and making stuff. This was not great professionally, or for that matter for my own personal emotional and mental state.

Nor was 2022 the first year I’ve had issues like this! See 2020, where (as we all know) I ended up scrapping a whole novel because I just couldn’t focus. To be fair, 2020 was, as I’ve said before, a king tide of bad (I include January 2021 as part of that “year”), and a lot of folks were in the same boat as I was, attention-wise. But, look: When two years out of three are “wow, my inability to focus really got in the way of my professional work,” this is not an exactly subtle indication that it needs to be addressed.

So 2023 is the year I actually go out of my way to address it. Because I have lots of things I want to do, and the first real step in managing bandwidth is dealing with that. From there I can consider how much bandwidth I actually do have, and how best to use it. This does not mean, I should note, that 2023 will see a massive explosion of output from me; I don’t expect this to be like a switch turning off and on. What it does mean, I hope, is that I end up with a better way of making it so I can do more of the things I want to do, both professionally and personally. Which is a big enough goal for one year!

Onward, then, into 2023. I don’t expect it to be a perfect year. But then, I don’t need it to be perfect. I just need it to be useful.

— JS

22 Comments on “Closing Thoughts on 2022 + Thoughts on 2023”

  1. For everyone about to give me advice re: focus:

    Please don’t, I’ve already got a plan of attack on this (which includes getting with a doctor to check on adult ADHD). I know this won’t stop some of you, but I really do want to assure you that I’m not looking to crowdsource this thing. I’m on it, folks.

  2. Here’s hoping 2023 bends the long arc of the moral universe a bit more towards justice than the last few years.

  3. Ah, I came to the comments to do the opposite and ask what you were planning to try! Which is to say, if you end up finding things that work really well for you (for focus, mood, executive function, or any of the other things that have taken such a hit in the past… too many… years), please do share them. I’ve got a few things rattling around in the toolbox, but I would like more…

  4. I think one of the biggest things is managing social media, phone/computer wasted time. I know for need that is a big time suck. And it is something I’m addressing in 2023.

    I’m glad you brought up the attention/COVID thing. When I had Omicron I it was right after I got a concussion. Talk about whammy.

    Anyways, Happy New Year, Scalzi family and Scamperbeasts

  5. I’m not going to offer suggestions about the whole “focus” thing, but what I will say about it is this – getting treated for the right thing really helps. I spent a lot of my adult life being treated for anxiety and depression before finally being diagnosed with autism at the age of 50 last year – and even in the few years leading up to the eventual diagnosis, knowing what I was dealing with and having the right word for my weird really helped me. So I hope you (and your medical and allied health team) find the right solutions for you. It really does make life so much better.

  6. Yes, Covid really messes a person up.

    It gave me two small strokes. The doctor says to take a full size aspirin a day to minimize that possibility in the future. I tell people to do the same. My wife and my neighbor died as a result of strokes (no aspirin). This can happen months after being over the main Covid symptoms.

    You are a high energy type personality. But after Covid, you may have to limit the energy you put into tasks or maybe the number of tasks. Take it easy for a while (you have done an awful lot) and keep track of your “spoons”.

    Best Wishes and Happy New Year!

  7. Pleased to see you’re lined up on the cat(apult) for another night shot with heaters and bombs. I expect it will be tense and maybe even tough. But don’t worry – I’ll gladly buy what you write.
    Get plenty of sleep and don’t skip even a single night. Sleep is Critical to how well you’ll be able to re-wire your flight computer. Good Hunting!

  8. As an autistic, one of the most important parts of managing my condition is managing my bandwidth and energy. I have a lot fewer mental spoons than most people do, if you are familiar with spoon theory; or, to put it another way, just handling “ordinary” tasks takes more spoons for me than for most people.

    And let me tell you, modern society is messed up when it comes to personal bandwidth and energy. It’s not just that the amount of focus, energy, and “doing things” expected of people is too much for those of us with disabilities; it’s that it’s too much for people who are absolutely healthy and neurotypical. The amount of time and effort expected of the average person by society is about 125% of what the average person actually HAS, and if you fail to give 125%, you’re seen as lazy, a failure. It’s nuts.

    But it is very freeing to go “no, it’s not just me, society is crazy. How do I build a life with realistic expectations that work for me instead of against me? What does that look like? And if it doesn’t look like what people expect, that’s their problem not mine.”

  9. I’ll be very interested in progress reports on this issue, too. I don’t usually form new years’ resolutions, but chanced on a free copy of The Daily Stoic, so I plan to read a page a day of that in 2023. I have chronic fatigue, so I’ve spent life miserably aware that I can only do about half of what’s expected. So I’ve learned to focus on doing what must be done, just to make sure it does get done. Forcing creativity has never worked. But the little bits I accumulated over the years have amounted to quite a lot so now I’m finally putting my book together, which feels good. Hang in there.

  10. I’m doing much the same. I’ve cancelled my streaming video services and gone back to Netflix’s DVDs-by-mail for two movie nights a week — watching video will now be a deliberate choice to watch something I want, instead of “let’s spend some time finding the least objectionable thing on and veg out to that”. Cancelled my local paper subscription (the paper has become the “Enormous Big10 State University Football Gazette”, along with some AP wire stories, police blotter reports, and minutes from local government meetings) and my Washington Post subscription (way too much insider politics reporting, along with everything viewed through the lens of Us vs Them political reporting as if everything was now nothing more than cheering for your side’s team). Similarly cancelled most of my print magazines. (I did subscribe to “The Economist” so I’ll still keep up with the world, but more in an “understand the ocean currents and not spend my time surfing surface chop from thunderstorms” way.) Between the time/bandwidth I’ll be freeing up along with no longer constantly reading the-sky-is-falling I’ll have more time and energy to do the things I actually want to, instead of continually doom-scrolling.

  11. @John Scalzi
    I returned to university at age 49, and struggled.
    Asked for help, got testing, found I have ADHD (and have had since childhood).
    Recieved various supports, earned my BSc in Computer Science.
    Now I am a month shy of 60, and have my dream job.

    You do have this, and will be fine.

  12. YMMV <== while what works for JS ought be considered, unlikely to fit you closely enough… imagine trying to wear his shoes (or eyeglasses)

    there's a truckload of bitter experience amongst readers of this blog in dealing with such issues as ADHD, autism, mental illness, et al… what be cool would be to assemble it all into searchable profiles… something unified medical recordkeeping — something promised by private insurance since 1990 — would have trivialized

  13. I’m dealing with focus issues, myself—in some ways alleviated by covid, in some ways exacerbated by it. It’s been really great for breadth of creativity in my case but less so at the deep focus required to finish things quickly.

  14. Thanks for taking us along vicariously as you start that journey, Mr. Scalzi. A lot of folks I know struggle with focus issues, and while it’s less stigmatized than was the case a few decades ago, there are still plenty of people who think they are somehow inadequate or flawed if their brains just aren’t wired to be hyper-focused at all times. When someone in a position like yours talks openly about struggling with focus, whatever the reason, it argues strongly against the assumption that a lack of focus is by definition a flaw. So thank you for that.

    As a side note, most folks I know who struggle with focus issues have mentioned that there isn’t any such thing as a single “magic bullet” that solves all the problems. It’s more of a toolbox, as KC notes, and you deploy the tool (or tools) that work best for the situation at hand. Most of the folks I know with focus issues are always, always on the lookout for new tools that they might add to their collection.

    Best of luck in stocking that toolbox, Mr. Scalzi. Here’s to a satisfying year ahead.

  15. Re: ADHD – I have the same plan of getting screened this year. Now that most of my teaching is online, I no longer have weekly class meeting to keep myself accountable. The YouTube channels ADHD Jessie and How to ADHD helped me realize how many ADHD symptoms I have.

  16. Doing one thing a day, a thing I planned, makes me happy.

    Good luck with focus, drive, desire, enthusiasm, whatever. Emotions are much more important than reason in that they enable us to be rational.

    Descartes’ Error

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