Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

It’s the first Monday of January on this blog, when you can ask questions and discuss any aspect of writing that concerns you.
It’s also when many of us make – and sadly, quickly break – our resolutions for the New Year. We aim to be slimmer, fitter and more active; give up bad habits, and be more productive.

These resolutions are soon broken, not because they are unworthy goals, but because they aim for perfection, not a natural place for humans to be.

We can still work toward these goals, but they probably should be built into everyday life, rather than pressuring us at such a sociable time. For myself, I started eating more sensibly about five months ago, and am already reaping the benefits. Had I started during the most indulgent season of the year, I’d have far less chance of making the changes stick.

The one-word approach

On Facebook recently, one of my friends posted what I think is a far more creative approach to the New Year. Award-winning American Romance Author, Holly Jacobs, said rather than making resolutions, she chooses a word to inspire her through the coming year. Last year her chosen word was step, a commitment to taking more steps each day. This year Holly chose stretch which, when you think about it, is what all writers should do – not only stretch ourselves physically, but mentally, with new writing challenges and experiences.

The one-word idea makes perfect sense to me. The problem is, like many of you following this blog, I work with words. Lots and lots of words. So far, I’ve published nearly five million words in books alone, with movie scripts, short stories, novellas and articles probably adding another million.

How on earth do I choose just one?

There are writing-related words – brainwave, inspiration, dedication, productivity, imagination, success, creativity.
Scary words – procrastination, deadlines, endurance, not really the encouragement I’m looking for.
After much soul searching, I finally settled on a word to sum up my hopes and plans for 2015.

*drum roll, please*

My word for 2015 is ENRICHMENT.

As a volunteer guide at Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium for over ten years, I was very familiar with this word. When visitors commented on how happy and energetic the animals all looked, enrichment was the reason.

Hummer, the handsome giraffe at Canberra's National Zoo & Aquarium

Hummer, the handsome giraffe at Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium

Everyone from zoo keepers to volunteers and children enjoying the vacation programs either contributed materials or helped make toys for the animals. Toys are usually food-related such as screw-top bottles or egg cartons filled with seeds and treats. Each item is tailored to the animal’s needs and skills, and is designed to challenge and entertain, while eventually rewarding the animal’s efforts.

In summer, frozen treats are on offer, such as “bloodcicles” for the big cats, and frozen fish for the massive European brown bears. One year, the zoo’s owners brought in a load of snow from the Snowy Mountains, and heaped it around the enclosures. Seeing a 400kg brown bear shyly check out a scary pile of snow was fun for animals and zoo visitors alike.

Enrichment for writers

As a fan of enrichment at the zoo, I can see it working well for writers. We’re also prone to boredom if we don’t have enough variety in our work. We also need rewards to stay motivated. Chocolate is a favourite, but movies, research trips and reading time can also enrich our writing lives.

Right now, in the heat of an Aussie summer, a pile of snow in my backyard has plenty of appeal.

What word would you like to adopt for 2015?
Share your word and reasoning with us in the comments below. I moderate posts to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on the “sign me up” box at right to subscribe. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy New Year and may all your words flow in 2015,

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
See the new cover of Valerie’s Beacons book, Birthright, at
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You

Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring for January – writers, what is your special word for 2015?" (18)

  1. My word for 2015 is going to be DO. I think about things – like writing, exercising and eating well – and talk about these things but I don’t actually DO them daily. Doing them daily requires prioritising them above other distracttions, as well as commitment, discipline and passion. But those are all big words and DO seems both more manageable and more practical.

  2. Valerie, I love your word! There are so many ways to apply it to your life, as well as your writing! I’m glad you enjoy the word of the year idea. I’ve kept most of my old words, written on their post-its, on my desk. So even though this year’s word is stretch, I’m still reminded to step and smile and….

    And I never knew you volunteered at your zoo! That’s lovely. I’ve been a member of our zoo for more than thirty years. When the kids were young, we did all the zoo school classes. I’ve held most of the holdable animals. Except the giant hissing cockroach. Much to my son’s disappointment, I couldn’t make myself do it. LOL

    Happy New Year!

    • Hi Holly, thanks for the great idea. I’ll keep my words after each year as well. Yes, I loved the zoo, only left because I moved a 2-hour drive away. I held most of the snakes, usually boa constrictors, and other reptiles, but couldn’t hold the big Aussie native cockroaches either. Spiders are also off my agenda – even if I were trying to stretch myself. I’ve hand fed all the big cats including cougars, bears, white lions, tigers and giraffes, patted the cheetahs and played with the lemurs inside their enclosure. If you come to Australia, you should visit. We could meet at the zoo 🙂

      • Valerie, I’ll tell my son you didn’t do the cockroach either! LOL But yes, when I come to Australia, we have a date. I’m hoping to come to the conference there and NZ’s someday! It was so hard when my kids were little, but now that they’re older, it’s on my list!

  3. My word is Success. I’ll achieve one of my major writing goals this year and want to remind myself to enjoy it to the full, while still trying to push myself to the next level. I’m also heading a major project at the day job and want to remind myself that it needs to be a success for the good of the organization, while I deal with all the busy work and anxiety I know it will generate. In some sense, success isn’t in our control, but how we relate to the successes we have can shape the way we live and, more important, move forward.

    • Very good point, Nancy, thanks for commenting. All of us need to remember to enjoy the “now” of our writing as well as our plans. And perhaps to redefine success as our own achievements, rather than the outcome of aspects outside our control. All success with your day job project, too.

  4. Kate Rothwell said:

    learn…I think I’m most interested in any process while I’m learning about it. I’ve started to lose momentum and interest in my own writing so this should help both me and the finished product! (I like the giraffe)

    • I think curiousity and willingness to learn are strong writer traits, Kate. Hope it does help. And Hummer is cute, isn’t he. I hand-fed him many times.

  5. Joy – to find the joy in the little details of life. So much of life (laundry, dishes, chores, etc) aren’t necessarily joyful, but as Mary Poppins sang, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun…” So gonna look for the joy rather than its evil twin.

    • Joy suits you, Laura. In Thailand, they judge activities by the amount of “sanuk” it contains. Sanuk roughly translates as fun. Anything not “sanuk” is not considered worth pursuing.

  6. Reblogged this on Writing For My Sanity and commented:
    Awesome post by my friend, Valerie Parv. My word for 2015 is JOY. Only JOY is allowed in my life this year – I’m banishing JOY’s evil twin. JOY.

  7. I love everybody’s new Word for the Year! It’s a good idea. We always choose a Bible verse, often at random. I ended up (randomly) with Abigail, who saved the life of her family & servants by appeasing King David after her foolish husband (whose name even means Fool) had insulted him. Abigail sent several donkeys laden with supplies for David’s army, who had protected them from invaders. An odd verse, I thought, but her life became great after the death of the fool. She ended up in the palace, as a wife of the king. From that, I could deduce several words. Possibilities are Wisdom, Provision, Abundance, Discretion, Overcoming… How can I choose from such a great list!? Given that everything else flows from it, maybe Wisdom. Or Overcoming. 🙂 Must I choose just one?

    • I understand your dilemma, Marion. No law says you must choose just one. Perhaps wisdom can guide you in overcoming. I like abundance, too. I’m sure you’ll find the right one for you.

  8. I’m still considering, but the very first word that came to my mind was PERSIST. That’s a pretty good one, right? But my writing goal started around the middle of last year and it was to take the stress out of it and just have *fun* with it again. If that means I’m writing something completely silly that will never see the light of day, I’m perfectly good with that. I’ve written around 150,000 words in the last six months and most of them will never go anywhere beyond my hard drive, but I fell in love with writing when I was doing it for myself and no one else. I’ve greatly enjoyed rediscovering that love.

    • Persist is a good word. Writers get nothing done without persistence, especially when the going gets tough and the gloss of a new project starts to wear off. Glad you’re letting yourself have fun with your writing. You never know where it might lead.

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