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First Monday August 2019 – how can writers “strive to be happy?”

There’s a lot of unhappiness out there in Writelandia. As I blogged last month, many writers feel overwhelmed with tasks from turning around edits in ever-faster times, to promoting on social media, giving library talks, answering readers’ questions; dealing with our use of diverse characters, even accusations of cultural appropriation. If you’re indie publishing you add in hiring cover designers, professional editors and other help.

All while incomes seemingly dwindle before our eyes.

As I flagged last blog, next weekend my agent and I are presenting a session at the annual conference of Romance Writers of Australia. Our topic – getting back the joy of writing. Because yes, despite all of the above, writing should be creatively rewarding. This doesn’t mean you have to skip to the keyboard singing. But it shouldn’t feel like drudge work, as I’m hearing it does for too many writers

Like any profession, writing has challenges. They keep the work interesting. But writing should give you joy at least some of the time. Anything else is a recipe for burnout.

Among my favourite mood lifters are inspirational books and posters. One in particular has inspired me throughout my long writing career. You may have heard of The Desiderata. For many years it was believed found in an old Baltimore church and dated 1692. We now know it was written by American poet, Max Ehrman.

I’ve written this version to inspire writers. The italic lines are from the original poem. The interpretations are mine.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.

How else can writers listen to their inner voices and tune out the hurley-burley of modern life? By avoiding “loud and aggressive persons” you avoid the vexations of the spirit which are so bad for your creative work.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Comparisons are everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are filled with them, making you wonder how your own writing journey compares. The answer is, it doesn’t, nor should it. Aim only to exceed your own highest standards.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Celebrate your small milestones as well as your major successes. Content yourself with sharing your stories, even if the prizes elude you for the time being.

Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery.

Any writer looking at a publishing contract knows this only too well. Indies have many pitfalls they need to avoid.

Let this not blind you to what virtue there is: many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

A fortunate truth, providing writers with much to write about.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is perennial as the grass.

A cynic cannot write convincingly about love or any other human emotion. Only genuine emotion felt by the writer can move readers to laughter, tears and other vicarious experiences.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Age confers many blessings on writers, among them available time to follow your craft and a wealth of lived experiences from which you can draw.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Two occupational hazards of writing, and nowhere is strength of spirit more needed than when faced with a rejection.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.

Even if no-one else understands the drive to express yourself in words, you owe it to yourself to respect, nurture and explore your gift as fully as you can.

…whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.

All writers share a common aspiration – to communicate. By sharing your stories you not only keep peace with your soul, you contribute to the pool of human understanding.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Do these words speak to you? Is there a point that touches you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments 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 writing,


@valerieparv on Twitter and Facebook

Saturday Oct 12 in Canberra for ACT Writers Centre

My new workshop, Making Your Book Work, details-


First Monday Mentoring April 2018 – finding the write surroundings for you

Today’s First Monday writing question comes from my lovely online Swedish friend, Agneta Angie Probst. It’s actually a cluster of related questions that concern most writers. What surroundings work best  – a quiet office with no distractions or a busy coffee shop? As Angie says, the first offers few disturbances, while the cafe has easy access to coffee and cookies. Connected issues include a suitable chair, handy writing tools (whiteboards, sticky notes) and scheduling your writing.

I could take the easy way out and say, “whatever works for you.” But this doesn’t help you decide what works for you. Bear in mind that one answer may not fit all, or even one, all the time. Angie may find she works well on fiction writing in a cafe environment, while a research project may require more peace and quiet.

Music preferences can also change with the project and you can assemble playlists to suit different writing needs. Good headphones will help you manage ambient sound, and are useful when you travel or work at home.

As for the best location, I find cafes good for people-watching and sorting out plots. J K Rowling famously wrote much of Harry Potter in an Edinburgh cafe called The Elephant House. Other bestselling authors who’ve worked there include Ian Rankin (the Rebus novels) and Alexander McCall Smith (The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency). 

Even Shakespeare was said to have worked in pubs because candles were expensive and the pub lighting suited him better.

Libraries are another place to get into your writing groove, though they are far from the silent places they used to be. Last year I presented a one-day writing workshop at the Canberra City Library. The mezzanine where we worked wasn’t fully screened off and I felt for other library users below us because my workshops are usually noisy. I was told afterward that the staff found our writing exercises entertaining, especially one on where to set love scenes other than bedrooms.

I also find that taking day trips with a local group is brilliant for scribbling ideas, while hotels suit me because I’m away from domestic distractions. Last October I was in Hawai’i when I awoke with a new book idea in my head. I got up and scribbled pages and pages of notes which I’ve just finished developing into a new series. I’m sure being away from home, exposed to new experiences, helped to kick-start my imagination.

Part of the appeal of cafes and other new places may be getting this fresh input. Whether you write part-time around a day job, or full time at home as I do, your writer brain needs new materials to fashion into stories. Even taking your notes out into a garden or on a balcony can provide this vital change of scene. If you have small children to mind, perhaps you can exchange babysitting time with another writing mum so you both get writing time. Or there may be a group you can join for inspiration or to get more writing done. Romance Writers of Australia is currently trialing writers’ retreats in different locales. Some focus on writing, others on sharing critiques, or a mix of the two. Contact for details.

As for having the right chair and handy writing materials, you can either outfit a carry bag with basic needs, or – as I do – draft your pages in a notebook or a tablet and edit them later. I find cafe chairs comfy for a limited time, maybe by design so we don’t outstay our welcome. If you find a cafe that’s both comfortable and happy for you to linger, buy lots of coffee and reward them with a  credit in your book.

If you’re serious about writing, it’s vital to have a comfortable ergonomic chair wherever you work most. Mine has everything from a pump-up lumbar support to arms that lift up or down as needed.

And if you want a take-anywhere cafe ambiance, there’s a site called Coffitivity where you can download an app that provides cafe noises with choices like Morning Murmur, Paris Bistro and University Undertones, described as “the scholarly sounds of a campus cafe.” According to the site, “being a tiny bit distracted helps you to be more creative…this is why those AHA moments happen when we’re brushing our teeth, taking a shower or mowing the lawn,“ a sentiment I fully endorse. Coffitivity cites a peer-reviewed study out of the University of Chicago as proof their product works.

Scheduling your writing sessions depends on you and the other demands on your time. I recommend experimenting with different times to see what suits you best. I used to do most of my writing before the rest of the world was awake. These days I tend to be more creative in late afternoon and evenings. Writing around the same time every day trains your muse to deliver at that time. Even if you only write a couple of hundred words a day, you’ll have a book written in under a year.

Where do you do your most productive work? What tips would you suggest to Angie? Please share with us in the comments below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your post can appear right away if you click on ‘sign me up’ at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,


on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

The 2018 Valerie Parv Award run by

Romance Writers of Australia opens April 9 and closes April 30


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