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Word for the Year (2021)

Amy Creative Journey | Featured | Philosophical Threads | WOTY , , , , , , ,

Word for the Year 2021

A Word of/for the Year – a treasured part of moving into the new year

Even though the Word of the Year (WOTY) concept is so important to me, this year…. I haven’t even considered words yet. Updating my “Word for the Year” (it isn’t a typo) post has been on my list for the last week. (I’ve been deep-diving into a new organizational tool, and I’ve diverted a lot of energy to that and to updating all the year-end prompts and tools I post here on the blog for year-end reflection, year-end sketchnote, and new year planning. Ultimately, it seems I am behind in “doing” my own things.)

The Word of (or for) the Year concept is one I hold dear. It is an important and magical process at times, and the chosen word can be such an empowering and comforting touchstone during the year. This is true, when it’s the right word. Some years, words don’t stick in the way you hope they will. That’s okay, and that’s part of the process. You probably will always have a soft spot for the words you choose anyway. But sometimes, you really do find just the right word.

The Unexpected Word

I often stumble on my word. Even though I typically go over many possible words in my head and then, finally, in a list on paper where I can really look at the words speaking to me, in many years, my word has just happened. More than once, I have had a really hard time accepting or reconciling myself to my word, and those have been years in which my relationship with the word was most powerful, most intense, and most transformative. Sometimes when a word “just happens” and seems persistent, I spend extra time trying to talk myself out of it or consider other words juxtaposed with it. Often, the word that for some reason has taken hold in my awareness really is the word that doesn’t let go. The universe does have its way when you are open to it. 

Great Word, Wrong Year

There are always words that I hope to “someday” have, words I want to hold, keep, explore, and live with as a guide for the year. But I do believe that the year has to be right. Words you love may or may not be the words that are right in a given year. Each year, you have to weigh them. Test them. Say them. Feel them. And then face, truthfully, if the word is right.

My word last year (2020) is one that I was very excited about at the start of the year. I never lost the word, but I didn’t stick with tracking it the way I planned at first. If I had, I wonder how I would have felt now at year end. I am sure the word was there, often, and even when I might think of it in a moment of seeing or doing something, by not recording those moments, I lost something that I needed for last year’s word. Maybe it’s a word I’ll repeat. I had even wondered if it was a word to go ahead and repeat for 2021.

Finding Your Word – It’s Personal

Even though I halfway have thought about holding on to my 2020 word, as I sat down to update this post, another word jumped at me. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I now wonder about it. I need to spend some time looking at it. But I also need to throw a bunch of words on a page and look at them, hear them, consider them, see if they have enough flexiblity and play and layering to word for me.

We each have our own personal ways to think about and choose a word. For some, it is a random process. For some, it is a methodical and deliberate process. And for some, the process falls somewhere in between.

Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word workbook is always a good way to think about your word, especially if you enjoy working through a process like that. She also offers a group where people talk about their words. (I believe you will find access to the group if you subsribe for the free Find Your Word email/workbook.) You can also find word lists on Ali Edward’s site. (Ali started the whole Word of the Year thing.)

In 2016 (for 2017), I wrote:

“I have been toying with words, saying them in my head, jotting them in a messy list in my journal. I have looked at group member comments and choices and jotted down words that are interesting, have potential, somehow stand out for me this year. Choosing a word for the year is a very personal thing. Each of us will respond to a different type of word, and there are always words that I hope will someday be right for me for a year even as I know this is not the right year. I am always looking for a word that is malleable, that is active and descriptive at the same time, that allows me to meet it both coming and going. I am looking for a word with a certain tone, a certain quality, a certain feeling. Some of the words that fit my initial idea for this coming year, my general thoughts on how I might focus in this year, lack, maybe, the beauty and play that I long for in my word. So, I continue to ponder.”

You can read lists of words in many places, and Ali Edwards has lists (typed and spoken) from years past on her site. The more words you see and even briefly contemplate, the more certain you may feel once you firmly choose your word.

Here are a few, just a very few, words that I jotted down as I searched for my word for 2017:

  • Dream
  • Wish
  • Track
  • Journey
  • See
  • Gather
  • Hold
  • Document
  • Record
  • Remember
  • Wander
  • Joy
  • Nurture
  • Do
  • Focus
  • Listen
  • Branch
  • Rise
  • Center
  • Open
  • Shine
  • Stretch
  • Reach
  • Find
  • Seek
  • Dance
  • Arrow
  • Forge
  • Connect
  • Spiral
  • Hone
  • Expand
  • Stream
  • Capture

I have made different lists every year. (The one above is several years old – and not updated today.) As somehow who loves words, loves the sound of words, and feels a connection to the power of even single words, I really enjoy this process and even seeing these word lists.

(In 2016, I added a note to my post to say that the above list doesn’t include words I have had before as a WOTY. Interestingly, that is not the case now! In the years after that, I did use one of the words on that list. It was one of my most important words to guide a year. Words I have previously used include light, grace, balance, flow, story, wander, and a few others. I am known to keep my words private during the year.)

Word for the Year on the CMP

There have been many “January” shows in which the idea of choosing a word for the year (and the process) has been discussed. Most of these shows are not currently available because hosting all of these many years worth of creative talk isn’t free. But 213, 232, and 289 are available. I didn’t go back and listen to these, but they might be good WOTY background listening or inspiration as you gear up for 2021 and move into the first week.

Two other “new year” shows that stand out for me, or maybe three:

(All of those are close in timing. It seems like I was on a philosophical track at that point. The Panning for Gold show is one that has resonance for me. It’s okay if everything you start on January 1 doesn’t stick. I like the throw it all out there approach – and see which things rise to the top.)

Note: you do not have to already know your word on Day 1. You can choose your word at any time. I like settling on one early in January. But you do you.


Learn More

What is your word? What words have you used in past years? What words did you contemplate this year? How do you choose and how to you commemorate, welcome, and honor your word?

I hope you enjoy the process of finding your word — and finding ways to keep it in mind and in “sight” throughout the coming year.

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