New Year, Nu ... tella (Mary Strand)

This month we’re blogging about fresh starts, or starting fresh, or how our outlook affects writing (UNFORTUNATELY TRUE), or how to keep (OR SOMEHOW REDISCOVER) the joy in writing.

You might be able to hear my desperation from where you’re sitting.

We’re now eleven months into COVID World, which has been a long, dark winter of my discontent, even last summer when at least the weather was quite lovely. Actually, here in Minneapolis, we also had a gorgeous fall and are now having a relatively mild winter. <knocks on all wood in sight>

Good weather doesn’t make up for quarantines and the inability to hear live music, go to movies, eat at restaurants, and hang out with (and play music with) my friends.

How my 2021 writing is actually going so far.

And so much for “new year, new me”: 2021 has started out pretty lousy, too.

I keep intending a fresh start on writing. Honestly, I keep failing. I made it about 12 days into National Novel Writing Month this past November, writing daily, although not much. But “not much” was way better than zero, so I was happy. And then ... I crashed again.

I even have LOTS to write! A YA series I love that I need to revise, and a romantic comedy that I need to write and which will be released this December. Stuff I love. I have ideas. I’m simply lost in a world I don’t recognize. A world I loathe.

I’ve been writing songs, though. My biggest hope is that the discipline of songwriting will eventually (like, SOON) translate back to my novels. In songwriting, I actually am making fresh starts: I'm trying new things, techniques I'm not yet too good at, and putting myself out there.

I just finished a four-week online songwriting class that produced a new song, and I'm part of a Facebook songwriting group in which we're currently writing (and posting a video of) 10 songs in a row, one every other week. I've written a couple of songs lately in the style of Joan Jett: with hard, driving barre chords, even though it's WAY more comfortable for me to strum chords in the style of the Eagles. I'm trying to shake up my guitar rhythms and sing melodies that aren't as predictable. (Both of my guitar teachers will confirm that my vocal melodies tend to be Extremely Predictable All The Time.) I'm now doing some guitar melodies and guitar picking in the songs I write. (But not much! ha ha.) Bottom line, I'm trying new stuff all the time.

All I need to do is dye my hair black, right? Yeah, I didn't think so.

I “just” have to translate that concept to my novels. Like, NOW. Somehow.

When I started writing this blog, I googled “song titles about starting fresh.” The top pick in one article was, quite perfectly, the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun."

            Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter

            Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here

Sounds like COVID to meeee! And it’s a reminder that the sun IS coming back. Along with it, hopefully, so will creativity and joy and feeling alive again. 

Here Comes the Sun! (I HOPE!)

I know so many writers and other artists who’ve seen their creativity shredded by COVID. I wish I could say that I fought back and won. I haven’t. But soon, I hope, I can indeed start fresh with writing.

Maybe even tomorrow. You never know, right?

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at


  1. I'm jealous of this songwriting! I haven't written a song in AGES...

    1. I'm hoping to record this year! Something new and TERRIFYING! :-)

  2. I hear you, Mary. I have been in this same creative dump heap for the past year. No motivation, no discipline, no creative juice! It's been very frustrating and, frankly, depressing. But like you, I'm hoping that when the sun comes out, Covid is less of a threat, and we can go back to some kind of normalcy, our muses will rebound! Best to you, my friend. Hang in there!

    1. I'm sorry that you're a fellow sufferer, PJ! Thanks, and best to you, too!


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