Tag Archives: Word of the Year

Checking on the Word of the Year

This time of year the time seems to pick up speed and race toward the end of the year. The days are noticeably shorter and we begin to become more focused on the end of the year.

A good time, then to check in with your word of the year. Is it still serving you well? Are you satisfied with your choice? How often do you think of it or consider what it means in your life?

Half-way through the year, I changed my word from “scatter” to “distill.” It was

It's not a painting; it's an open space in the wall, overlooking Arizona's desert. Beyond is the Bar-T-Bar ranch, with the San Francisco mountain range in the background.

It’s not a painting; it’s an open space in the wall, overlooking Arizona’s desert. Beyond is the Bar-T-Bar ranch, with the San Francisco mountain range in the background.

worthwhile. “Scatter” was what was happening to my life–too many open doors, too many choices to keep them all balanced. What started out as some far-flung ideas ended up as not getting enough of the right work done.

It was less of a paring down and more of a taking the essence of my work–distilling–that worked well. I’m glad I made the switch.

How do I weigh the choice? I write the word on random calendar days and see what has happened since the last time I considered it. Because I look at my calendar on the weekly view before the daily view, I see the word coming and going through the week.

Tell me how you remember your word and what it has meant to you so far.

-Quinn McDonald loves watching words make meaning, whether or not she changes them.

Checking in on The Word of the Year

The year is touching the half-gone mark. How is your word serving you? Does it seem like a touchstone? A millstone tied to your ankle? Do you remember it?

Did you have to dredge it up like a boat mooring that’s been submerged all summer?

Your word for 2014 doesn’t have to stay the same for the whole year. If it’s not surprising you, helping you, teaching you, it may be time for a switch.

I’d chosen “scatter” and it is the word that has gotten the most mileage since I started words of the year. I wanted to try out new ideas, techniques, coaching styles. I wanted to write and draw, do collage, teach, re-design my studio, find a sport I like so I can do more of it. I’m exhausted. I also wanted to start a newsletter, network, build an audience, find a niche, create a Facebook Page for Inner Hero seekers. It was overwhelming and I knew I’d do poorly on most of it. Because most of it wasn’t grounded on any one value, one idea.

I’m not sorry I chose “scatter” –I learned a huge amount, including my limits.

An old-school distilling device.

An old-school distilling device.

So I’m stepping up to say I’m changing my word. Halfway through the year, I have experienced the joys and perils of “scatter” as much as I needed to.

I’m choosing “distill.” Almost the opposite of scatter.

I’ve filled the pot on the left with ideas, techniques, to-do lists, explorations and experiments. Now I’m going to think things through, let them ripen in the glow of the Operating System of the Universe and see what drips out. This feels really good.

I’ve been doing minimalist collages and that feels like it needs more time and development. So do some classes–writing classes–poetry and capturing some personal Truth–what each of us know about our life, but have wasted time allowing others to define for us.  And finally, I want to honor the Inner Hero.

How is your work serving you? Is it time for a Mid-Summer Change of Heart (and Word)?

-–Quinn McDonald is watching summer settle in and is emotionally estivating.




Checking in on the Word of the Year

Moonrise over Houston. The bright full moon is caught under the wing, as we turn west toward Phoenix.

Moonrise over Houston. The bright full moon is caught under the wing, as we turn west toward Phoenix.

April is already half over and I haven’t checked in on your Word of the Year. Do you remember it? Is it serving you well? If not, you may find that putting it down and choosing a new word is just what you need.

“Scatter” is my word. It’s been very interesting. Some days, I do something from all parts of my life, some days I explore the edges of something I’ve done for a long time.

On the business front: I’m amazed at the people I sit next to on airplanes. So many people crushed by their own lives. Who flee into “busy” to give themselves self-worth. Who will talk to me about their lives although they don’t know me. Very interesting.

On the coaching front: I’m grateful for clients who recommend me. Very grateful. It’s a wonderful way to accumulate more gifted people who want to work on change.

On the creative front: I’m exploring collage again. Deeply. Collage with Monsoon papers and words. Always those words! And after returning to my Commonplace Journal, I’m thinking I need to teach a class that includes . . . . a lot.

On the identity front: I’m so interesting in how people perceive others. Now that I have identified as an outsider artist, I have found that I’m not alone. There are creatively hungry people out there. And yes, people who just like to mess around. Room for both!

On the art teaching front: I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Madeline Island class makes. The long, cold winter slowed class enrollment, so I’m holding my breath and hoping for a few more people who want to retreat into creativity, explore writing and art and make a journal –all in early June!

What’s your experience with the word you chose?

-Quinn McDonald is thinking of working on a plane-coaching model, because she seems to be doing a lot of listening to people’s stories.

Checking in on Your Word of the Year

It’s time again. How is your word doing? Is it directing you? Helping you? Slowing you down? Do you remember it? Do you wish you had chosen another word? There is no rule that says you can’t. If you can’t remember your word, or wish you had chosen something different, try that. A word that is not serving your creativity is a word that needs to be updated.

Your creativity needs to be nurtured and encouraged. With words, with actions, with the best help you can give it.

This is the banner of  's blog: http://thepowerofwordsonpaper.blogspot.com/  Be sure to read her review of The Night Circus. Link is below.

This is the banner of Morigan Aoife’s ‘s blog: http://thepowerofwordsonpaper.blogspot.com/ Be sure to read her review of The Night Circus. Link is below.


My word for the year is “scatter” and I’m doing it. If all went well, I am flying home after filming the DVD this week. I wrote blog posts ahead of time, so if I came home tired, I could rest and not beat myself up for not posting a fresh idea.

I’ve never done a DVD, and I did it in support of the Inner Hero Creative Art Journal book. I was hesitant. But writers have an obligation to live what they write,  so I had to stand up and support my own inner heroes and support others in the creation of their own inner heroes.  If I don’t create a tribe around the book, no one will be able to warm their hands by the fire of creativity.

I’m also creating a new class for my corporate clients. I rarely talk about my life as a corporate trainer, but it’s a big part of my life. And I’m stepping up and creating a class on innovation and change. I see the need for it when I teach business writing. So I’m creating it. Gulp. Will it sell? Will clients ask for it? Is it risky? Well, sure, but if I chose “scatter,” I better try the risky things.

How is your word doing? What are you doing with it? Does it need to be changed, updated, brought back into your life? Leave an answer; you’ll help others.

-–Quinn McDonald remembers that her mother-in-law used to say, “Do it now. You are a long time dead.” So she’s doing it.

I’m reading The Night Circus, which is how I found Morigan Aoife’s blog on the book. It’s interesting.


The Right Word (Guest Post)

Quinn’s note: Today I read an email from Creative Crocheter, a friend and long-time acquaintance. She was explaining the Word of the Year to her friends and family. The thought that went into choosing her word for this year was impressive enough,  I asked if she would be a guest poster. She generously agreed. Each month I’ll ask one of you to check in as a guest poster and tell me how your word is doing.

*   *   *   *   *   *
On the other hand, gathering my thoughts about listening has had its own rewards. I’ve been reminded of the many ways in which my body, soul, and spirit speak to me.

Listening to my body is the obvious one. Tired? Get more sleep. Hungry? Eat something healthy. Weak or stiff? Exercise. Obvious, yes, though not always heard.

Listening to my soul is a little more subtle. What is touching my heart with joy or sadness? What is engaging my mind? What is challenging my will to follow through on the choices I have made?
Listening to my spirit seems least direct, such as through physical metaphors, if I ask “What might my spirit be trying to tell me here?” when a physical problem lingers. When my shoulders are tense and achy, what am I shouldering that isn’t mine to carry? When an infection resists treatment, what might I be allowing to fester—a guilt or resentment that needs to be cleared out, opened to light and air, so it can drain and heal? When food isn’t digesting properly, what am I having trouble stomaching or what have I swallowed from what others are “feeding” me that isn’t good for me?

How do you listen to yourself, to others, to nature, to God? I was reminded of the role of silence in allowing deep listening to take place when I read this recent post on a favorite blog [Madmanknitting]

When was the last time you were in silence so deep you could hear a still small whisper?

My answers to those questions have led me back around to my 2013 Word of the Year: “Home.” Not just a place, for me, “home” is anywhere I am heard and where I can truly listen. Yes, I am grateful that my physical home gives me the space and quiet to let myself listen, to be still and feel safe, to find comfort(ing) and peace. And yes, surrounding myself with colorful, soft, handmade beauty contributes to that environment. More than that, though, I am truly thankful for the people in my life with whom I feel “at home” and who reflect back to me so I can really hear myself, encouraging me to listen past pain and hurt to a deeper level of knowing.

AtlanticSunrise_632_25Aug2013Then—surprise—after all that listening, my 2014 Word of the Year popped out of my reading this morning: “Light.”

Such a rich word with so many uses:
As a noun: a stream of photons, as in the attached photo; a lamp or source of illumination; an insight that comes in a flash, as in “the light dawned.”
As a verb: to ignite a fire; to land, as a bird “lights upon a branch”
As an adjective: without much weight, as in “my burden is light”; bright or pale, as a color that is “light blue”; cheerful or even frivolous, as in “light entertainment”; easily digested, as in “eating a light supper”
Even in an adverbial form (lightly): delicately, with grace.
And those are just the ones I jotted down before I looked in the dictionary. Where does “light” show up in your life? What will you choose as your 2014 Word of the Year?

Whether or not you celebrate, as I do at this time of year, the coming of Jesus as the “Light of the World,” may your deep listening lead you home to the loving light that glows within you.

CreativeCrocheter feels “at home” with Quinn, who really listens, lighting the creative path.

Let Go, Let’s Go, and Choosing

Several of you have asked what my word for 2013 is. Rubber Rabbit, who knows a good deal about doing and giving up, chose the same word: Let Go.

treeHere’s why I chose it: It’s something I need to learn how to do better. To look at my work plate and let some of it go. For every (significant) new project I take on, I will create a guestimate of how much time and effort it will take, and then take the equivalent amount of work off the plate.

As I have discovered over and over again, I can’t have it all, and certainly not at the same time. I want to teach online classes, in person classes, coach creative people, finish the inner hero book, cook up another book (new concept, still half-baked), teach a new class  to introduce the inner hero book, put out an e-book, teach classes with all the contributors to the book. . .the list goes on. Even if I put all the ideas and tasks on a timeline, there is not enough time. So I will have to Let Go of some of the ideas.

There are emotions that are no longer serving me. Guilt, regret, some anger, fear. I’ve squeezed all the learning out of them I can. They won’t compost into joy, energy or peace. Time to Let Go.

I have too many art supplies. Projects I thought I’d do, supplies I thought I’d need, purchases of materials I thought I’d have time for. And never did. Items I have no talent for and am not interested in learning. Time to Let Go to people and places who will love them and use them.

There are possessions in my house that I am holding onto for reasons of guilt. Things I don’t want or use, but that my parents thought were important enough to cram into the few possessions they brought with them. They need to bring someone else something else. Keeping something out of guilt is a terrible reason to own it, make space for it. I need to make space for space.

And then, a slight variation. It’s time to get into action. Not huge leaping ahead, but the smallest thing that I am capable of doing. Not making a video, or publishing an e-book, but doing tiny steps toward figuring out how to make it possible. Looking where I want to go, seeing if the road is clear, and then, well, Let’s Go!

Quinn McDonald is looking forward to the discoveries of 2013.

Thoughts For the End of the Year

This was a year of big leaps and painful stumbles, of problem solving and getting it wrong. Then righting myself and finding balance. For a bit. For me, that’s the point of living a creative life. Not bliss, not smooth sailing, but a mix of everything.


Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat.

It gives real perspective on both the high and low points—deep enjoyment of the highs allows me to tolerate the lows. And for me, that’s the point. The lows aren’t defeats if I can keep the highs in mind. It’s the distance traveled between them that make the highs and lows work, and they work together. Not one at a time. And it’s the effort for both that needs to be honored. No one deliberately screws up. We were on the way to something else when we realize we were heading in the wrong direction. Often at full tilt.

Because I find hope a false emotion (often a great mask for the inner critic), knowing that success and failure come in waves makes both of them bearable.

Hope allows me to think that mistakes are accidents and success is “who I really am.” Hope pushes me to think that all things will end well. But they don’t. Some things end badly. I am neither my great success nor am I my embarrassing failure. The red-ink ancient Chinese chop up there says, “Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat.” Good point. I am a spirit in motion, traveling toward and away from something at the same time.

This year brought me the gift of saying goodbye well, when my father-in-law died. And the gift of great, unbridled pride and unconditional love, given me by my son. And an acceptance of letting go of the long struggle over a quilt my mother never finished.

My biggest disappointment (in myself) came when a treasured client quit in anger, and stalked away.  Much of coaching success depends on self-management, the realization that I am a space of energy only. I do not “make” clients succeed. I do not “cause” their failure. But when a client is careening toward a decision fueled by anger, it is hard not to try to wrest the wheel of decision-making out of those clenched hands, and try to fix, correct the path. It’s overpowering to want to avert disaster.

But I took a vow in coaching class, a vow not to fix, not to give advice. Because fixing and giving advice doesn’t allow for the client to see that learning-important mistake and live it. Instead, giving advice allows for blame and anger toward the coach instead of measured consideration of personal decisions.  The best coaches I know are masters of “no advice”.

In the following weeks, I knew I could give the client an easy out. Go back and pretend the careening skid hadn’t happened. Fix my image of myself at the same time. Make myself kinder, at least in the rear-view mirror. But life doesn’t work that way. This was a client decision. My work was to accept that decision.

Some things can’t be mended, fixed, healed or backed up. Consequences are what we choose when we choose an action and make the decision.  I had to accept that every illusion I had of wanting to change the outcome was not my work to do. The client was behaving true to personal human nature, turning away from the change that was suddenly no longer worth fighting for. Painful as it was, I had to step aside and let the future happen, whatever it will be.

And that’s a good lesson to pick out of the smouldering disappointment. You can explain, but you cannot understand for others. You can learn to accept what is. You can give up hope that somehow, magically, history will forget and back up and we can live a day over again, wiser now. Every parent in Newtown, Connecticut would pay dearly for that. But it cannot be. I cannot decide not how to change the world, but only how to change myself.  We talk about forgiveness a lot, insist on its power, until, of course, it is up to us to forgive. Then it seems impossible.

This has been a year rich in lessons–on change, accepting, forgiveness, intention, focus, letting go, growth. All of those are words that you, my blog readers, have taken as your words for 2013. All are good. You are the brightest, funniest, wisest people I have never met, and I hope to get to know you all much better in 2013.

Words are powerful. Choose the ones you want to live by well.

-Quinn McDonald wishes a few deep hours of reflection for everyone this year, and the deep joy of acceptance.

More on Choosing a Word of the Year

You are having so many good ideas for choosing the word of the year, I don’t really want to move on. So today’s blog post encourages you to add why this word you are choosing is important to you.


Tree heart. Take heart. Heart of the matter. Words count and matter.

If you’d like, you can explain how you will keep the word close during the year. Here’s what I’ve done in the past:

1. I put it on the computer calendar on a random day each month and attached a “notice” to it, so it comes up the first time I start the computer on that day.

2. I write it on a piece of paper and stick it into random places in my journal. When i come across it, I think about what it means.

3. I tuck it into my sock drawer so that it turns up at random intervals, surprising me and giving me a different perspective.

Here’s a quote to think about while choosing that word:

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”   ~  Joseph Campbell

It’s Time for Your Word of the Year

Never a friend of New Year’s resolutions, I discovered another ritual that’s more powerful and has more potential than New Year’s resolutions: A word of the year. You choose a word that will symbolize the year for you–set the intention or create a verbal amulet.

Image from theresaceniccola.com

Image from theresaceniccola.com

The word should be limber and supple, without any stiffness of punishment, or hashmarks to measure yourself with and find yourself coming up short.

Verbs are good, because they are action words. And taking action is a favorite step of mine to get unstuck or move ahead.  Of course, there are also the state of being verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. Small verbs, but powerful.

Other people prefer nouns–things or ideas: creativity, intuition, freedom. Nouns can be things you hold in your hands–paper, pen, seeds, feathers. Or they can be things you hold in your heart: wishes, wisdom, peace.

DreamsinlightsNow is a good time, at the end of the year, to think of a word you can hold and use for all of 2013. Choose a word that will last, that will build you up and support you. You can choose a word that is both a verb and a noun. The one I chose for 2010 was light. I could light a candle or a fire. I could help them discover the light hidden within them. I could make someone else’s load light. It was a good word for the year.

Your word can be any part of speech, and you can use it in as many ways as you want–present tense, active voice, transitive with an object or not. Use it as many ways as you can and see how you change it and how it changes you.

If you keep a journal, you can write it down and visit it every week or month and see how that word has shown up in your life at the end of every week and how you would like it to show up the next week. You can write it on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket and rediscover it every day. Write it on a key you use every day and remember it when you unlock the door.

140_word-of-the-year-unfriend_flashBegin now to choose a word. It should be a good, chewy word that will last a whole year. Last year I drew a word at a letting go of the year ritual and drew “suffering.” At first I was disappointed, but the definition of suffering is wanting and expecting too much and I learned a lot by avoiding suffering or grasping. Not every lesson was fun, but it was a good word for the year.

What are the words you want to invite into your life for the year? Leave them in the comments, and tell us why.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves the “word of the year” idea.

Journey to Spiritual Self-Esteem

When Journey Cole was a little girl, she ran away from home a lot. It’s how she got her nickname–from the time she was young, she had a sense of adventure.

Suitcase, packed and ready. Image by © Journey Cole, 2012 All rights reserved.

She still does. Journey is a contributor to Raw Art Journaling, and last year, when I started to talk about choosing a word for 2012, Journey told me, simply, “Spiritual Self Esteem.” I had to ask her how it was going. Here’s what she said:

Q: When you told me that you were working on Spiritual Self-Esteem I was fascinated. What does that mean to you?

Journey: Spiritual Self-Esteem is the most powerful Word of the Year I’ve ever chosen. It is a process and not an abstract idea. It means learning to live in my higher self/spirit. My spirit is not in question but my connection to it. It is an inner knowing/intuition that guides me to make better choices: What do I let go of? What do I want to create?

Q: How did you come up with this idea?

Journey: I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions; they don’t work for me. I choose instead a word that defines a goal I would like to reach. Since I suffer from the dis-ease of feeling not good enough, my word usually applies to doing, getting, or something ego related. The idea of Spiritual Self-Esteem came when I was in meditation, which I do daily. I felt a sense of peace and gratitude, a stillness from deep within, and thought this is how I want to feel…to live in my higher self and not my ego…and the word Spiritual Self-Esteem expressed that feeling best.

Q: How does SSE come into use in your daily life–most of us have jobs that we don’t consider spiritual.

Journey: My husband and I travel a lot for our work. I meet a variety of people in different locations. The opportunity to use Spiritual Self-Esteem occurs daily. I have always believed that dealing with people can be hell or used as a spiritual practice. For example, if someone is ill-tempered with me, in the past I would react from my ego, but now I ask myself would I act the same way if I were in their shoes? In my travels I’ve had some mature, insightful talks with children and met some childish adults.

Q: I know that you journal quite a bit. How does SSE come up in your journal entries?

Journey: My daily journal includes a lot of Spiritual Self-Esteem entries: daily encounters, questions I ask myself and how I can improve my actions and stop the reactions.

Q: SSE sounds like it’s a healing practice. Do you see it that way? How?

Journey: Spiritual Self-Esteem is indeed a healing practice for me! When I am spiritually attuned, serendipitous events take place, my stress level goes down and I feel more balanced.

Q: If you were to teach a class on SSE, what would you tell the participants they could gain from your class?

Journey: I’ve never thought about teaching a class in Spiritual Self-Esteem because I feel it is a very personal inner journey: each person’s unique connection to their higher self.

Q: How has this changed your life?

Journey: I’m slowly learning to be the observer, not the absorber. All my life I’ve compared my writing, artwork, etc. to that of other people. I let their criticism and rejection push my buttons. Now I find it freeing and strengthening to be the observer. This is how I define the process of Spiritual Self-Esteem.

Quinn McDonald loves the idea of not being an absorber. A natural sponge, she is learning how to wring herself out in her journals.