The Past (Tense?) of The Word of the Year

Note: Congratulations to snicklefritzen43! She’s the winner of the Natalie Goldberg book. I hope your word of the year brighten with the book! Contact me at quinncreative [at] yahoo [dot] com with a mailing address and the book will be on the way!

Many of you have chosen your Word for 2015. Some of you are trying out the last cull from the ones you thought of. This is excellent work, thinking about the word or phrase that will serve you well for 2015. How it will fit you, how you will have to make room for it in your life.

2014-calendarBefore we leave 2014, let’s think about the year that is quickly coming to a close. What word would you use to describe 2014? Did the word you chose for 2014 match your experience?

Was it close? It doesn’t have to be, after all. You could have had a big intention word and constantly worked on it, while 2014 plotted against you.

Or maybe your word was not big enough and it was an easy word, but not a challenge. Not everything has to be a challenge. Some things can be a treat.

How would you describe 2014 if you thought of it in an overall sense? Was it a year that pushed you to grow? One that you negotiated with a bit of stress but made it through? I like to pit my chosen Word of 2014 against the word (phrase) I’d use to describe 2014 and see how thy line up. Then see if that balance is reflected in my Word for 2015.

Here’s my own example. I started 2014 with the word Scatter, with the Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 2.22.31 PMintention of broadcasting ideas like seeds–in big, joyous arcs. Halfway through the year, I felt too scattered. I was doing too much, too little, not doing enough well enough and feeling confused. I switched the word to Distill, which I loved doing for the rest of the year.

The year 2014 had some tough challenges for me. There were a few big, crushing disappointments, and a few pleasant, unexpected developments. If I had to choose a phrase for 2014, I’d choose “Give up control.” Every time I try to control the future, the path is too narrow, too paved, too engineered. And every time I think I want that, I experience a big tear in my plans that shows just how foolish that idea is in my life.

Summary: My words for 2014 were both Scatter and Distill and the year was a year of Giving Up Control. The words were a good match for what I experienced, but it felt a bit removed from digging in.

Moving Ahead: My Word for 2015 is Heart.  Yes, I am the one who hates heart shapes, I have no talismans shaped as hearts (to my view), I don’t use them in my artwork. So why choose that word? Because I am working on a book, and I have slowly discovered that I need to write it with Heart, because that will make it come alive, while writing it with brain will just make it accurate. Because passing ideas through my heart will show me what my work really is, not what I think it should be. In a world where I give up control, when I do not compete, or become attached to winning, Heart will help me find balance at the point where I so often fail–going with what is soul-satifying instead of career building. Because soul-satifying will attract the participants who build career. And it’s time for the Tribe. You know, the one you are part of on this blog.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who keeps a Commonplace Journal.

31 thoughts on “The Past (Tense?) of The Word of the Year

  1. I’m a little late commenting on this post, but wanted to chime in here. I decided on “allow” for my word in 2014. It proved very accurate. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and went through a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation for the first half of the year. My word “allow” took on a new depth as I decided not to use words like “fight” or “battle” in dealing with my cancer. I chose to allow it to come through me, to learn from it, to allow myself to rest and heal and allow others to help me with meals and doing things for my family. It was their way of receiving a blessing of helping, and I would have deprived them if I had not allowed them to help.
    Now I am considering the word “assist” for 2015. So many friends were a blessing to me in 2014, that I would like to somehow assist others to move in the direction they desire and accomplish something that is meaningful to them. I know that by doing this, I will not only help someone else, but I will also “assist” myself in achieving something that is important to me. Hope this doesn’t sound “holier than thou”. I don’t mean for it to. But after a year of focusing on my healing, I would like to focus on something beyond myself.

  2. My word “little by little”helped me to get some projects accomplished. I learned that I have to work in small lapses of time over the day to get my creative work done. Starting in the evening often ends in frustration as I have no room of my own. I work in the living room and are almost never alone in the evenings.
    I live my life on three pillars:
    – home, family and friends
    -motion: walking (in nature preferably), swimming, biking, jogging or viniyoga (which I started a few months ago and helps me to clear my head a bit)
    – journaling and living a creative life
    In that order!
    Wanting to be perfect in everything I do, I must say that the word that resumes my year might be something like “confused” or “frustrated”
    So I think that for 2015 I would like the german word “Achtsamkeit” (my translator says attentiveness). Listening to my body and my soul.
    I never kept a written journal, but did some superficial journaling this year – not really deep writing.
    Writing and listening as you suggest in your today’s post is what I should do. Any suggestion how to make it a daily practice are welcome!

    • To make a practice a habit, you have to put your heart into it at the same time every day. Doing it at a different time means journaling gets pushed along through the day until it doesn’t get done. Pick a time that you will be alone for about 20 minutes. I’ve journaled first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but what works for me now is when I get home from teaching, right after I change and wash my face.

  3. My word for 2014 was ‘open’ and, as I’ve already said in comments to some of your other word posts, it fit this year perfectly. Open is a very multifaceted word and it has brought me to new experiences, new places and new endeavours.

    In the past year I have done simple fun things, like visiting places on my island I had never been before, going on vacations to cities I had never visited, and even exploring places I had been before in a different way.

    I have allowed myself a more open way of journaling, straying from my usual format and trying new ways to fill my books. I even joined Roz Stendhals fake journal month!

    I have been a little more open on my blog about the things I encounter now I work less and play more and the challenges that brings.

    A few weeks ago I was approached to illustrate a children’s book and am opening myself up to a whole new kind of scary experience.

    I have done more challenging things like trying to open up my time without planning every second and wanting to be in control of everything. Being open has been very much my antidote to my inner controlfreak (and that’s still a work in progress, haha).

    The most challenging part of the word has been to be more open myself. Just yesterday I had to open up and ask some people for help. Asking for help is so not my thing. I think I was born with the words “I can do it myself!” in my mouth, but of course we can’t do everything ourselves. Anyway, the response to my aking for help was so generous that I’m still a little shocked by it. But this is kind of what I mean: you have to be open to these kinds of experiences even if they are scary or just unfamiliar. I need to practice being vulnerable.

    ‘Open’ is a word that could last me a lifetime, I’m sure, but I have found that all this openness is also opening me to parts of myself I’m not so proud of or happy with. One of them is my judgemental nature and my need to correct people that I think are wrong. Even if they are (hello facebook fools) one should wonder if it’s my job to set them straight. It’s a symptom of this general tendency I have to judge both others and myself, because I can be pretty tough on myself too. I think I noticed that much more now that I’m trying to be more relaxed about my time and my life. There’s this side of me that thinks that I need to kick my own butt and be even harder on myself and get in line and not be such a slacker (which I’m not!). Sigh.

    Anyway, that’s why I think my word for 2015 will be ‘gentle’. I haven’t fully decided yet, but it sounds right to me. It sounds especially right to me because that nasty little voice in my head is going “Yeah, right, that’s what you need, to be even more of a weakling!”. It’s because of that scepticism that I think this is a word I need to explore. I have also thought about a word like ‘soft’, but ‘gentle’ sounds kinder and yet stronger in a way. ‘Soft’ feels too passive.

    My, this is turning out to be a long comment. Sorry about that. I’m preparing to write a blogpost to close off the year and go on my annual blog break during the holidays and this is helping me think about the stuff I want to write about.

  4. Yep– my words (I had two this year) matched my year: actually ALL year the first one, Persevere was in effect; but the second one Peripato helped me survive without despair. I’ve chosen DIVEST for 2013; started already in cleaning out my kitchen cupboards of unused, duplicate, and unwanted equipment and supplies. Pantry, and then hall closet next! I have a piece of calligraphy executed by my great-great grandfather when he was 13 in 1832 and is going to go live with my nephew next year: “The Right Hand of the Lord is Exalted, the Right Hand of the Lord doeth all Things.” I had asked him about it and it turns out that it hung in his room for a while when he was little and he’d always wondered what happened to it, so now he can have it and share it with his daughters.

  5. Haven´t really come to a close for 2014. Some days I feel it was over about two months ago and some days that it will be going on for at least another three.
    You are a brave woman admitting you don´t like hearts. My daughter is the only person who knew that about me. And that just because I gave her all the heart stickers from every sheet as I never use them either.

    • I started early because there is so much to do between Holidays–Hanukkah starts tomorrow, then Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year. I need time to discover my word. This year it was loud and bothersome, but at least it made itself clear. And yes, I have gotten a few emails about hearts and my dislike of the idea of hearts.

  6. I have only been reading your blog a few months. But when I read about a word for the year, I started thinking. Mine needs to be “focus”. I have a horrible time with focus. I feel like the kid with ADD. I can get off the path with the least little change in the wind. So that will be my word for the year. I may add a second one to it too.

    I have enjoyed your blog for the short time I have been reading it. I have gotten so much out of it already. I am looking forward to reading more of your writings this coming year.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words! You don’t have to stick to just one word–I went through two last year. But “focus” is a good word, although I’d suggest you enjoy getting off the path every now and then, too!

  7. Last year, to keep sane at work with a burgeoning level of administrivia I had KISS, Keep It Simple Sweetheart. I didn’t want to get sucked in to the mire, just do my work and let others do whatever . . . and it was so hard to step back having been the one in charge for so long. Finally, with enough signs that the time was right, I left the paid day-job and became gainfully unemployed so KISS took on a new meaning . . . it haunted me because with time to reflect I could see how many things were holding me back from the simple like I desired. I have had A Year of Two Halves.
    In 2015 I want to really challenge my procrastinating self, the one who whispers fear and undermines me. Focus, Leap, Energize are all good, not perfect as they don’t quite carry the full weight of what I want to achieve, but good enough for this week . . . Sift, Divest, Filter, Roots, so many possibilities . . . which is part of the problem, so mabe Choose or simply NOW!

    I don’t do cutesie-pie hearts or any similar affectation everywhere either, in fact I don’t do cute in anything much (children and small animals excluded). But Heart: to have heart, listen with your heart, follow your heart (intuition coupled with integrity as opposed to impulse), to be bold of heart, strong of heart . . . those I try to do and admire those who achieve it if only for an instant.

    • You had a really tough year last year. I’m glad you are breaking into a new space to see what is waiting for you. Yes, the idea of “heart” (once I got over the “oh, no, not THAT!” part) is quite daunting. But then again, what else have I got to do?

  8. I am daily doing some timed writing in the exploration of the word I will select for 2015 It is from my learning experience in workshop with Natalie Goldberg that my writing from a list of words saved in the journal for “sparks” for timed writes that set me on this course of annual word selection process for the past several years. Then today it was my sheer delight to learn in the daily post that my name was drawn for a copy of a book written by Natalie that is not in my library. Much appreciation, Quinn, for the writer pot you stir in me with your daily blog posts. The gift of this book is a holiday season very special addition to my library.

    • I’m so very glad the book is finding a good home! I, too, enjoyed Natalie’s workshop; the idea of a memoir began to niggle at me then–about seven years ago. We never know where inspiration comes from!

  9. I am liking this word for the year idea.My Mom died in January and 2014 has been hard.But,I’m beginning to acknowledge the loss.My words are narrowed down to honor and embody-leaning towards the embody as it doesn’t have the bit of “shame” charge that honor has for me.

    Heart…What it makes me think of is taking action (maybe even “embodying” action,as in “taking a path with heart”. I suppose whatever word is chosen,it is the intention behind it that matters,(or not!) 🙂

    • There’s a big helping of truth in what you wrote, Jen. It’s not just the literal meaning of the word, it is the bit of the word that resonates and makes us feel the heat and light of the word. “Heart” on its own is not interesting to me–sentimental love; kitschy lacey expressions–but “heart” in terms of courage of your own conviction, of sticking with your ideas, even when you don’t have a lot of support–that’s real “heart.” And for you “Embodying” may be exactly the word you need.

  10. I think Heart is a great word for you. And I look forward to seeing how it shows up for you. I still haven’t quite decided my word for the new year, but I’ve narrowed my choices down at least.

    • For me, that’s that the last few weeks in December are about. Some serious thinking, and some opening of the heart. It will be a huge work for me to remain steadfast to the word, but what good is a word if it’s not challenging?

  11. In the early 70’s when I was a brand new teacher I used a heart as my “logo” of sorts. I signed my name with a heart, used them in the classroom-long before bumper stickers proclaiming I Heart NY or any other state you care to fill in the blank. When the heart craze developed I felt a bit annoyed. Then students and friends began to inundate me with heart paraphernalia. If there was a heart on the item then surely I would want it. I did not. The use of Heart requires, demands discernment. One must choose carefully that which we bring into our world-mentally or physically.

    Yes, you must write your book with heart..and live your life accordingly. This is a very good post. Not sure what my word is just yet. Will have to get back to you on that one!


  12. My phrase for 2015 is “know greater joy” . I went on a religious retreat this past October and yes, that was the theme. I experienced so much that weekend that when I returned I was determined to spread joy all over. Now I have always tried to be joyful and kind anyway but had not experienced an overwhelmijg sense of kindness from others in a long time. Then my husband was diagnosed with cancer and my world would have fallen apart except for the fact that family, friends and neighbors showed us so much love. They became my “angels”. Thankfully, after an operation, the surgeon was able to remove the entire tumor and my husband is now home for the holidays!
    Quinn, I love your blog! You inspire all of us to dig deeper into our lives to become better writers, journalers and people. Your books are fantastic and I can’t wait to read your new one!
    Have a wonderful heartfful new year.

    • You really have known greater joy! And without knowing it, we really can’t spread it. So this sounds exciting to me! I’m a bit skeptical about “heart” but it’s good to be skeptical so I can keep working on it.

  13. You have the biggest heart so you don’t need to draw them!
    My word was wild….I have not been acting wild, the complete opposite ,but if I were to interpret it as the joy of nature and wildlife it has been one of my favorite years,uk experienced a beautiful summer where I went swimming twice a day everyday in the sea in all conditions with my new neighbour…we would just drop everything jump in the car with a thermos and be in the water within 5 mins. Sunrises,storms,sunsets,it was amazing…and it was easily possible,we didn’t procrastinate or plan ,it was always spontaneous . Beautiful birds by the river make me happy as well. All those things were free and a gift. Ploughing through repatriation and admin was dull,not wild,but the wild thing is…..this morning I got all the letters and paperwork organized that I have been working on for months…thats a pretty wild coincidence.
    I am still working on my word for 2015 ..simply it is Light at the moment.
    I feel lighter already having recieved my news today…it was a burden.
    I am thrilled by all th fairy lights everywhere for Xmas and we have made a community effort in our street and it looks loverly.
    I feel the vibrations of light from candles meditating and have them everywhere to uplift us.
    I need to open up and let some light in,let my inner flame ignite again. Open my heart.
    I adore the light in this part of the world and that’s inspiring my photography,
    I am going to India to stay with friends and one of things i am looking forward to is a candle lit yoga class…which apparently is so beautiful ,that when you enter you go up some stairs,and my freinds have called it the stairway to heaven!
    So yep….bring on 2015.. And THANKYOU for all your constant hard work and inspiration Quinn x

    • What a wonderful story of light! I love the idea of a stairway with lights on them. Here, we have luminarias–small paper bags, weighted with sand, with candles in them. The Desert Botanical Garden has luminaria walk every year, and this year they lit about 10,000 luminarias on the garden paths. It is magical. I envy your travel to India!

  14. First a confession. I’m interested in what others will comment about this. I’m commenting now so I can subscribe to the comments and not have to come back to the blog to read!

    I got very little done on my word of 2014 (Space), so rather than make the effort to think of a new word for 2015, I’m just carrying it over. So, I suppose laziness is a definite factor here.

    BTW, same here on the heart shapes (among other symbols, such as angels, etc.)

    • Anyway I can get you to subscribe is a thrill for me! Space is a good word, but you don’t have to change it, you can give it a specific meaning this year. More space, a different space, a space for X, there are a lot of ideas you can dress up that word with. Let us know!

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