Monday, January 6, 2014

May I Have a Word? Just One.

Like my poet friend Ruth Foley and her poet friend Molly Fisk, I choose a word for the year. I used to do it according to academic year, but then at the start of the 2013-14 school year, I just continued with my 2012-13 word until last week, and so I’m switching now to a word for the 2104 calendar year.

I tend to go with a word that will, at various times depending on what's happening with my writing life, alternately inspire, motivate, remind, encourage, gently scold, and otherwise work its magic on me. Sometimes I also have an accompanying mini-mantra, though not every year. Usually, they work together.

When my word was YES, the mantra was "I have everything I need." I wanted to say yes to every option, opportunity, resource available; and, I needed to remember that even without extra funds, the ability to travel, or connections, everything I needed to write was within my reach.

Another year, the word was Choose, and the mantra "You Can't Do Everything". Another time, the word was Decide, the mantra, "So What?" Here, "decide" wasn't about choosing between things, but deciding on something and then going ahead with it; and if it didn't work, so what? 

My just-expired word was Hope. When I first chose the word, I worried it might feel too mealy-mouthed, a bit too soft and vague for me, as if I was abdicating my own agency in the process of writing, submitting, publishing.

I was about to embark seriously on several new areas of my writing life, and needed something to quell the nerves and doubts banging around in my brain. I also needed to remind myself that just because I hadn't done these things before, and even though there were chances things might not work out, it was essential not only to work hard, learn, try, and persevere, it was also okay (and maybe even necessary) to hope.

As it turned out, many of the new ventures worked out quite well in the form of finding new teaching opportunities, getting more work published, developing a coaching/editing client base. Some haven't yet—finding a publishing home for the memoir manuscript is among the three goals I have been diligently chasing but which are still "in the works".

I have hope, still.

And now I have a new word for 2014, and a mini-mantra too. While I won't say what they are, I can vouch for the power of having them. Though there's no chance I'll forget them, I do write them in various places and tuck those notes where I'll come into contact with them at random times throughout the year. Reinforcement helps.

There are days when I think having such a word/mantra is a bit too touchy-feely, or that my word is silly or I'm silly for investing a word with any power. Then again, isn't that what we writers do, every day: believe in the power of words, the power of a single good word?

So here goes. Some days, stumbling across or remembering my word/mantra is like remembering that  $20 bill tucked in the bottom of my glove compartment just when I need gas and left the credit cards at home. Or finding, on a day when more than one rejection arrives, that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup from the Halloween stash still hidden in my desk drawer. 

Sometimes the word is chocolate.

Image: Marie Buyens/Flickr Creative Commons


Anonymous said...

This is my third year of choosing a word -- I find it empowering and helpful. Belief. Abundance and now, Simplicity.

Barbara McDowell Whitt said...

In late December The Writer magazine had a photo on Facebook of 2014 written in a notebook. The question was asked, "What will your word be for 2014?" Right then it came to me: my word will be 2014! (with the exclamation mark).

Brenda Clevenger said...

Chocolate is a great word. In 2012 my word was "vibrant." I've never picked a phrase before but if I did, I'd steal my yoga buddies phrase that she says at the end of every class...I'm the Point the Universe is Trying to Make.

Have a great year.

Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

My word this year (first time I'm doing this!) is resilience.

Teagan Kearney said...

My two words for the past few years - especially in connection with my writing - are patience and determination. If I say them enough, maybe I'll develop some!