Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

In the last minutes of 2020 many online friends posted memes booting 2020 out, saying good riddance, and commiserating on the trials and tribulations of last year.

For most of the world, this was a trying year and I haven’t heard anyone regret its ending. But regret is a negative emotion, hardly a useful guide to what we do want from 2021. An example of this came from American psychologist and NASA consultant, Dr Denis Waitley, with whom I was fortunate to work when he visited Australia. He explained how, years before, he was asked by a retail client to help them reduce shop-stealing.

Dr Waitley suggested placing a barely noticeable message under the store’s background music, saying, “Don’t shoplift. Don’t shoplift.” To everyone’s surprise, cases of theft went up. When he changed the message to, “Please pay at the checkout,” the figures dropped dramatically. Next time you want something done, replace “Don’t forget to…” with “Remember to….” even as a reminder to yourself. Positivity works.

It can be harder to work out what you want than what you don’t want. Here are some positive changes you CAN make to your writing life in 2021.

Be kind to yourself

Instead of beating yourself up for not writing every day, or reaching a specific word count, put star stickers on a chart, or create a sparkly list on your phone of what you did accomplish. Break the task into bite-sized pieces. I used to put housework on my to-do list until I broke it into specific chores I could cross off as I went along. Which would encourage you more – putting write book on your list, or setting 200 word daily goals?

Do some meditation

Above all, writers need time to think. Forcing yourself to write, you may miss the inspirations that come from letting your brain relax. I do Chakra meditation most days, but you have many options. Gardening, walking, playing with pets, all allow your thoughts to wander as you consider your story options. Just remember to write down or record on your phone whatever ideas come, so they’re available to you later.

Take screen breaks

If I’m off social media for a day, I’ll get PMs or emails asking if I’m OK and did I get their message. The sender means well but it’s impossible to create new material if you’re constantly on call.

Try new challenges

For me, this was indie-publishing my memoir, 34 Million Books. The experience was such a buzz, I committed to writing a Christmas ebook set in my invented kingdom of Carramer. Started in early November, the story was up on Amazon by December 2, and is one of the most fun writing experiences I’ve had in years. Your challenge can be as easy or hard as you like but should feel exciting and even a touch scary.

Be your authentic self

Within sensible security limits, share your authentic self on social media. Be open about your writing challenges and ask others how they deal with similar issues. This isn’t humble bragging or virtue signalling, it’s an honest attempt to connect with others on the same path. Many times I’m asked when the fear of the blank screen will go away and the writing become easier. I believe we write to see if we can do it. No writer ever knows it all. This keep the work stimulating.

You can also nurture connections beyond your writing goals

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of connections, whether friends, family or colleagues. Make time to meet, online if actual meetings are restricted. Hang out with animals. My rent-a-cat Jessie, and Cookie the teacup poodle are special furry friends who give far more than they take.

Last week I discovered that the current Valerie Parv Award holder, Kristin Silk, whom I’m mentoring, shares my love of guinea pigs, and we’ve happily exchanged GP experiences on Facebook.

Take a break from your four walls. This isn’t always possible during lockdowns, but when you can, visit a cafe for takeaway if need be, and people-watch to refill your idea well.

How will you refresh your writing self for 2021? Share in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on sign me up at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy New Year, happy writing,


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Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring January 2021 – change the ‘donts’ in your writing life to what you ‘do’ aim to achieve" (7)

  1. More wise words, Valerie, thank you, I look forward to your posts each month. I learned mindfulness meditation and used to teach it in my work. When I can’t “sit” to meditate, I will do walking meditation in my garden. I am also loving your memoirs, so many take away “gems”, and the wit, warmth and humour you have brought to everything you do is delightful.

    • Thank you for your beautiful comment Davina, The walking meditation is a great idea and I’m delighted my memoir and blogs are helpful to you.

  2. Marion Laird said:

    Thanks, Valerie, for another encouraging post! I love to meditate on favourite Bible verses, filled with love and positive encouragement! Davina’s comment about walking meditation reminded me of some of the inlaid labyrinth paths at old European monasteries, where you aren’t trying to escape from anything (like a maze), but just walking and praying and getting your mind on God and off your troubles.

    one positive thing I’ve tried to teach myself in the last few years is to stop telling myself, ‘you have to,’ and saying instead, ‘you get to…’ ‘You get to work on your novel today.’ ‘You get to go do the shopping today!’ it helps a lot when the inclination is to want to do anything else. Right now, I’d love to be able to fly in and do the dreaded housework and dishes, but with wrist surgery tomorrow, I don’t know when I can. I’m grateful to our writing group who are sending us some home help for several days until I can function again! That’s a connection made long ago and kept up through the loss of our original online home to our current one, and I’ll always be thankful for discovering ‘the Bats!’

    as for trying new challenges, I think that’s what keeps our outlook fresh. yesterday while waiting for my pre-surgical COVID test, I discovered I’d left my phone (and thus the ebook I’m reading) at home, so I dug out my pocket-sized sketchbook and did some left-handed sketches of the waiting room. they’re wobbly but not as bad as they could have been. handwriting is improving, too. it just wants practice. I think a lot of things are like that. we stick to the familiar ways because they have become easy, but we all need a challenge now and then. my advice is to try something new now, and don’t wait until you break a bone! 🙂
    Wishing everyone the best in 2021!

    • These are great comments, Marion. I love the idea of “I get to…” rather than “I have to…” Reminding ourselves how lucky we are to get to write, or use whatever talent we have is positivity at its best. Go you turning a broken wrist into a reason to try things with your other hand. I do that myself, fortunately without the damage, All the best with the surgery.

  3. presidentsan said:

    Great post

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