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!