A Year of Words and Work

I kept hearing about words as 2018 kicked off.

There was the usual round-up of announcements by dictionary publishers and websites, telling us their most looked-up or supposedly definitive word of 2017. These include, if you’re interested, youthquake, populism, complicit, feminism, and, my personal favourite, Milkshake Duck.

On the less clickbaity side of things, some people I know or follow were announcing their own word of the year, expressing their goals or intentions for 2018. (They were mostly Californian, certainly American.)

It seemed unnecessary to feel the need to condense 12 months’ worth of ambition and expectation into one word.

But as I played with getting my planner reading for the new year, I started to wonder, if I were going to have a word of the year, what would it be? To my surprise, it came to me instantly, so I got right on board the bandwagon and set it down.

Planner/word of the year
Using my Moleskine stickers like some kind of planner Muggle.

In recent months I’ve been consciously trying to use this word to refer to what I do at my desk. ‘I’ve been working today.’ ‘I got caught up with my work.’  If people think I’m being pretentious, so be it. I am giving myself permission to take my words seriously. (And anyway, they wouldn’t if I was a man. And anyway, they probably don’t, and that’s just my inner voice of imposter syndrome and/or guilt still talking.)

Verbalising what I do as ‘work’ has been helping me clarify the goals I have for the months ahead. It’s only taken, oh, about three years since I decided to do the writing. In that time I’ve done two online courses (with a third on the go), two writing retreats, sporadic blogging and one NaNoWriMo. In some ways it could be frustrating that it’s taken this long to get to this point, but I’m patient enough to know that it’s all been part of the process.

Meanwhile, when I’m using my own unique mix of skills, expertise and experience to get something done; to put something new in the world – that work is exhilarating, and satisfying, and I’m ready for more of it.

Currently, I still have a day that is very fragmented by our routine here, as well as some (very rewarding) community commitments. I’m making a bigger effort though to fit those round the work though, rather than the other way round.

We’re half-way through our third year in Congo, which means there’s a possibility that within six months we could be living in a completely different country. That’s as much as I can say about that for the moment – because that’s as much as I know! But depending on how the year progresses, I’d like to add editing, translating, and (maybe) tutoring to my working life. I’m ready to start putting a value on my own time again.

In the meantime, for the sake of accountability, here are the tangible steps I’ll be taking:

  • Minimum 500 new words a day, 5 days a week (on fiction, memoir, blog posts or reviews). Doesn’t seem much, but it’s enough.
  • Blog once a week, even if it’s only 100 words, even if it’s meandering self-indulgent blethering such as this. (I still won’t be committing to being a ‘Travel Blogger’ or an ‘Expat Blogger’, tempted as I often am. I still want the blog to be my sandbox.)
  • Finish the novel manuscript I’m working on. (Even if I end up deciding I don’t like it, I still need to finish it.)
  • Review each book I read on Amazon/Goodreads: for the sake of writing thoughtful words; for the moment to reflect on craft; for the community and the karma.

For a lot of people, their word of the year is about getting away from work, taking more time to relax or play or smell the roses.

But for me, WORK is my exhilarating, enticing word for 2018



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