Chances are that if you expected 2021 to be better than 2020 you've been disappointed so far. Even if you enjoyed a good Christmas and started the new year as full of good resolutions as ever, the reality of short dark days, dingy weather and lockdowns might have already sapped your motivation. Take heart–you are not alone!
I find it's easier when times are hard to write something factual. Doing research, planning articles and the discipline of writing pitches and presenting facts readably gives me a focus that I can concentrate on. Fiction, I find harder. It requires more imagination, and it's all too easy for thoughts to wander off on other paths, especially if you don't have a deadline.
Ways to regain a sense of purpose are to enter competitions or write for themed anthologies. After the initial rash of pandemic-related themes, thankfully, calls for submissions are now becoming more varied again. These give you something to brainstorm around, a word limit and a deadline. Many offer respectable payment, and it's still possible to find contests that are free to enter–things that are particularly helpful in these straitened times. I've listed a few of them below, and you'll find more complete listings at the following sites.
The Diabolical Plots submission grinder ( is great for keeping up with market changes for all kinds of fiction and poetry. Writing Magazine's site (, Duotrope ( and Submittable ( have useful listings, although many of the publications on Submittable require submission fees. Ralan ( is another good site if speculative fiction is your thing.
Whatever the world brings, I hope you have a great 2021.

Here are a few free competitions to get the brain cells going in the right direction:
* The Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award offers professional rates and a prize package for speculative fiction up to 8,000 words. Closing date: 1st February. Visit to find out more.
* Papatango will once again be looking for unperformed full-length plays for its new writing award, which offers £6,500 and a commission for a follow-up. The closing date is 7th February and further details are at
* The Wergle Flomp competition for humorous poetry at has $2,000 in prizes and closes on 1st April.
* Fix's Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors is for cli-fi stories 3,000-5,000 words and has prizes ranging from $3,000 for first place to $300 for nine finalists. The closing date is 9th April and details are at