Some years ago I ditched New Year’s resolutions, which felt more like giving up something for Lent—i.e., depriving myself of something I wanted—than evolving myself into the person I wanted to become. In place of making a resolution, I began choosing a “word of the year,” a strategy I learned from then singer-songwriter Christine Kane.
Choosing a word of the year is akin to setting an intention that guides you toward your purpose, moving you from where you are now to where you want to be. Instead of pushing upstream toward a hard-to-achieve resolution, you embody your word and allow it to permeate your consciousness. In a sense, you become your word as you take action in your day-to-day life that puts your word into practice. Your life, then, begins to mirror your word. Your word becomes your way of being in the world.
Several years ago, as I reflected on the year gone by and set my sights on the year to come, I realized that in previous years I’d unintentionally chosen Writing Words, words that guided me toward my writing dreams and goals.
In hindsight this is not surprising given the fact that writing holds my sense of purpose, my sense of self. Indeed, like most of the women writers I work with, writing is the foundation of who I am. When I prioritize my writing, I am more present in every other area of my life. Life goes better.
No wonder I had unwittingly chosen, year after year, a word to guide my writing: my writing guides me.
What better way, then, to begin a new year than to deliberately choose a Writing Word that steers your writing and encourages you to become the writer you want to be?
How to Choose Your Writing Word
First, take stock. Notice the gap between where your writing is now and where you want it to be. What word or phrase will help you to bridge this gap?
If you are an aspiring writer, perhaps the word write will move you from where you are—aspiring—to where you want to be—writing. Write the word write on an index card and post it in your writing space. Allow it to remind you of your intention to write. Then, act on your word: write and watch yourself become someone who writes.
On the other hand, if you are someone who has been writing for years but who has drawers full of unfinished writing pieces, perhaps the word completion would return you to your work with a renewed commitment to complete one piece at a time. Post the word completion in your writing space and allow it to permeate your consciousness; become a writer who completes her writing projects.
Your Writing Word can be a word that underscores a tangible outcome you want to achieve in your writing, such as publish or submit. Or your word might echo a next step you want to take; for example, if you write alone and never show your work to others, your Writing Word might be community or share or visibility or tribe.
Perhaps you are successful in one area of writing, such as business or academic writing, but you want to write your life experiences. Your Writing Word might be memoir or personal writing.
Notice how the Writing Word in each of the above examples heeds a want or desire. That is no accident. The purpose of your Writing Word is to help you become the writer you want to become.
If a Writing Word does not come to you immediately, write your way toward it. Pose the question What do I want for my writing in 2017? in your journal or notebook. Set your timer for ten minutes and allow the answer to this question to emerge from the tip of your pen. Another question to consider: Who do I want to BE in relationship to my writing in 2017?
Be gentle with yourself if it takes you a while to discover what you want as a writer. As women, we often become separated from our deep wants and desires (and, yes, writing is a deep and worthy desire). Sometimes it takes time and space and reflection and an honest tuning in to ourselves for our desires to re-emerge.
Ultimately, your Writing Word should put you in sync with your Self. When you light upon it, it will resonate to your core. You will experience a full-body knowing. A smile. A yes.
Several years ago, for example, I chose the word vision. Writing memoir is, after all, about seeing our deeper story clearly and making sense of that story for our readers. I wanted to trust my vision for my memoir, to see it through my true eyes, and to write what only I can see the way I see it.
The word vision kept returning me to the truth of my own experience. It kept me writing my memoir from a place of honesty and integrity. And the hard stuff? The word vision was a gentle reminder that there was truth in seeing, and that even though seeing the truth was sometimes painful, there was always, buried beneath the “wreckage,” a deeper, more universal truth. Indeed, a treasure for me to discover, to see.
I find that posting my writing word in my writing space returns me to what I want and teaches me that I can “weather the storm” and arrive at where I’m heading: my vision.
This year, as we approach the end of 2016, I’m still settling on my Writing Word for 2017. A few of the words I’m rolling around are sisterhood, tribe, structure, and flow. I’m leaning toward flow, not because the other words wouldn’t make excellent writing guides for me but because flow cuts to the heart of a struggle I bump up against: trusting my thoughts as I write.
Aha. I think I have just added the word trust to the contenders.
How about you? What’s your Writing Word for 2017?
Let us know in the comments below. Then come join us at the Writing Out Loud Sisterhood–Writing Women’s Lives private Facebook group—and share your Writing Word with the Sisterhood. Not yet a member of the Writing Out Loud Sisterhood? Just click “Join” in the upper right side of the page. Once I approve your request, you’re in!
My word for 2017 is Focus. I need to focus on cooridinating my many memoir stories into something cohesive…
Hi, Janet. I love your word. Focus. May it bring you the cohesion you seek in your memoir this coming year.
Enjoy your writing, too, Janet!
My word for 2017 is Prompted.
Thank you for sharing your word here, Linda. I’ll look forward to hearing how it moves you and your writing forward in 2017!
My Word is MOVING .. that when the invitation to write stirs from within, that I respond by moving my pen upon the paper or email whatever it might be. The other day I wrote a note of encouragement and gratitude to my Pastor’s wife detailing how she inspires me and she wrote me this morning and told me that this was the best email and why.
Hi, Heather. Thank you for sharing this lovely description of your word and what it means to you. I love the way you’ve captured the double meaning of the word “moving” to include both the state of being moved to write and the action of moving your pen across the page. May your writing move you toward everything you want in 2017!
Hi Heather, I am having difficulty deciding how to put my early life stories together. They are “The Night I Allmost Died,” A Fisherman’s Daughter’s Nightmare,” Always a Flower Girl,” and Nana An American.” “The Night I almost Died” was published in an anthology. “Always A Flower Girl” is a work in progress, as I keep finding photos or relatives send them to me. Including the photos with the text seems to add something to the sotyr. I’ve just completed a story about meeting my husband’s great-grandmother when I was a child, long before meeting him. My several attempts of blending one story into the next has failed, but I will keep trying. Maybe, I should just concentrate on completing the flower girl story or have each story stand alone as a chapter. I hope 2017 will help me come up with a solution. Thank you for listening.
Phyllis Ciarametaro December 10, 2016
My word for 2017 is CONNECTION. I’m craving deeper connection with myself, others and my path.
I love this word so much, Dawn. Especially because writing is about connection to yourself and to your readers. Here’s to deep connections in 2017! M
I choose the word Freeing because I need to free myself from other commitments in order to make time for writing. I also need to free my imagination when I’m writing my family’s history, in the form of historical fiction — I’m too much a slave to the ‘facts’ I’m able to find, and to the search for further facts when they aren’t there. I will let my imagination fill in those blanks, and see what ancestors have to say to me!
Hi, Cheryl. Oh, I love the idea of “freeing” yourself to the wisdom of your ancestors! May they whisper your family’s “truth” in a way that you hear it loud and clear. Do you know Toni Morrison’s essay “The Site of Memory”? She addresses this very thing–reaching beyond fact to the deeper emotional truth passed down from generation to generation. All best, M
Thank for this exercise. When someone asks my how is my book going, my answer is “So many stories, so little time…” I contemplated the my goals and my emotions about my writing. My word is “Surrender.” This one word summarizes my frustrations and thrusts me into creating my first goal. “I must make writing my first priority.”
Hi, Pat. I have a special place in my heart for your writing word. The year I chose “surrender,” my writing approached a whole new level of authenticity and what I can only describe as a kind of ease. Not that it was easy, but it felt more like traveling downstream rather than pushing upstream. Wishing you much writing joy in 2017, M