Rebuilding year

Around halfway through 2019, I was really experiencing the peak of a creative block. I was working full-time at a Fortune 500, trying to run my editorial studio, and had barely enough time to write. Something had to give. Fortunately, my contract with the Fortune 500 would end in March 2020; conventionally, the Fortune 500 would rehire you after a 3 month break, for another 18 months. 

For me, I was just counting down the days till March 2020. We all knew what happened the months leading up to it, as COVID seized Asia by storm. The offices were closed so I mailed my laptop back, and the early days of my rebuilding year were spent trying to buy toilet paper and groceries. 

Annus mirabilis is a Latin phrase which translates roughly to “marvelous year” (Wikipedia also offers up “wonderful year,” “miraculous year,” or “amazing year.”) It’s often used to describe Isaac Newton’s 1666 discoveries, and Albert Einstein’s discoveries in 1905.

Dwarkesh Patel also writes about Linus Torvalds’s year spent reading about operating systems and building one himself, as well as fantasy author Brandon Sanderson’s writing five additional novels to the one that fans were already expecting to the tune of a cool $41 million

At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us pretended that we were going to have our miracle years too; we were modern Shakespeares, making our masterpieces during a plague that threatened our lives every day. You could miss me with that—I knew I had to keep my expectations low, so I did.

Looking back, I realize that while it wasn’t a particularly marvelous year, it definitely set the foundation for what I’m doing now. Creative Doing is about to ship, but it’s no Harry Potter; it’ll probably be a quiet launch that grows into buzz over the span of a year. 

Still, just a little over two years in, I can’t lie and say that nothing changed. I can actually literally feel the difference—I’ve gotten better at my professional work, and at my personal craft. I feel much better about the direction I’m heading in. Maybe that’s all I could’ve asked from that year. (No wonder Sagmeister takes a year sabbatical every five years!)

Maybe what Annus Mirabilis and rebuilding years have in common are that they provide a precious block of uninhibited time, where a person is free to pursue their own curiosities and exposing them to a type of luck; the idiosyncratic type that is applicable only to them.

Thanks to James Wong for showing me the Annus Mirabilis blog post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *