Friday, 29 December 2017

Words for living

As the end of the year approaches, like me you've probably come across a lot those blog posts and Facebook promotions getting you to think about resolutions, creating habits, setting goals for the New Year. I'm a sucker for all that, but very quickly get overwhelmed with all those ideas and intentions and never actually do any of it once we get to January.

But there are two things I've come across over the years which seem to offer a simpler approach. No goals, no lists, no new routines, just some words.

The first idea is from Christine Kane, a singer-turned-business-coach. She proposes that you choose a Word of the Year. Just one word - and it's not a goal, not necessarily a "doing" thing, more of an "attitude" thing, a way to approach whatever the new year throws at you. Click here to follow her process for choosing your word.

I tried this once before, and I managed to dig out a blog post about it too! The blog post about putting my word into practice was illuminating to read as well, three years on - if you want to know more about my "process", then have a read of this and know that nothing much has changed!

My word for 2018 is ACTION. If you read my last post, you'll probably understand one reason why I chose it. But I want it to mean actually getting stuff done, my stuff, to stop feeling so muzzy headed and frustrated with the outside world, and just get on with my life. It could mean political action if necessary, although this was not my intention.

The second thing I highly recommend is from Nicholas Wilton, an artist from California. He's such an unassuming chap but always has some really helpful advice about art and living the life of an artist - I thoroughly recommend his blog and newsletters and free video series.

Nicholas suggests that you choose three words - words that sum up why and what you do. The instructions for choosing your words are here.

A year or so ago, I chose the words: RHYTHM COLOUR NATURE.

Rhythm, because I like to listen to music with a strong and/or interesting beat - jazz, world music - all sorts of weird stuff. And rhythm is also pattern - and I love patterns - collecting them, doodling them, stitching them.

Colour - because I love bright colours!

Nature - because I love wild nature, wild landscapes, plants and leaves, shells, as well as "natural" materials like string and unbleached paper and calico.

I even made a little book with pics of some of my work - and I have a few left if you'd like to buy one (£8 plus P&P)

But I'm continually mulling this one over, and so I've had another go at my "words". My new words are:

NATIVE because I love all things indigenous - tribal - Sami, Indian, native American, Inuit, Aborigine etc as well as ancient symbols and marks, such as runes.

ELEMENT to describe the wildness I love - the elements of rain, wind, fire etc, but elements are also "basic" materials - so referring to my preferred materials of cotton, linen, shells, recycled fabrics. Elements are also parts of a whole - so could be pattern or colour - the elements of a design.

TRUTH because (again, see last post) one of my big things is honesty, being truthful, finding the "truth". It also refers to using unpretentious, simple materials - materials that don't pretend to be anything else. Natural, unvarnished, unpolished, raw, as you find them. Unbleached, recycled, found - honest. This one also loops back to "element", and "native".

The other thing I like about these words, is that they could refer to my very deep interest in food -  particularly traditional (native?) methods of cooking, like making sourdough. What is cooking if not creating something wonderful from basic materials? One of my Christmas presents is to go on a fermenting workshop and learn to make sauerkraut and kefir!

It's also been a jolly good excuse to have a play with my new favourite font:

These are good words too:

If you could describe your intention for the year, or for your art, what would you word or words be?


  1. Just reading this makes me feel totally inactive! I never seem to get to grips with resolutions, intentions, words yet feel a need for change more than anything else... always wanting change which I see as a sign of not really being content with what I currently do. I've come to the conclusion I am searching for something that maybe isn't there!

  2. Ooh I like this idea - so much better than giving up chocolate or joining a gym! I read your 'word for 2015' post, and the info about choosing my word, but I'd already more or less settled on mine. So, thank you - my word for 2018 is going to be 'explore'!

    1. Exciting! Are you off on your travels too?

  3. Trying again! First words of wisdom failed to publish!

    So, what I was trying to say was how we cope with this concept and obtain a sense of direction in the day job. What we do is plan - business plan if you like- for the year ahead. We set our collective ambitions and work out targets along the way if these ambitions are to be met. As a SMT we meet and review these targets regularly and we are not wedded to the plan. We retain a flexibility so that we can take advantage of opportunities that emerge.

    I think in art this is also how I work. I tend to use January to plan for things I want to do during the year and they distaste the general direction of travel. That said, I do like the idea of the words and will try the technique Nicholas suggests.

    So, while as artists we might only be micro businesses I think there is a merit in following a commercial model. ( even if making money is not the actual outcome). Hope these ramblings all make sense.

  4. Hmmmm. I shall have to think about that, although Colour and Pattern would both make the shortlist. I must admit, though, I'm almost the reverse of being a sucker for those lists - I tend to suspect the compilers of them of not following their own advice and simply exporting stress and performance anxiety to the rest of the population!
    That said, like you, I need to do something to deal with the way the world is wagging at the moment. More thinking to come....!

  5. Certainly something to think about, thank you. I can see both sides of the comments above. But above all, I believe it is about our own attitudes to these things as much as it the words or, indeed, the avenues we choose to motivate ourselves. There are days when I don't even want to get out of bed, then there are days when I feel that I can tackle the world. So, lovely people, create when you can, stop when you feel you can't create, but most of all enjoy doing what you can, when you can.

    1. Very wise words Jeni - thank you.

  6. We do need a sense of direction but I love working with serendipity....that does have a habit tho of spiraling off in all directions! I do have a list of words....somewhere - while looking (there's another 'spiral'!) I found a list of questions, copied down I'm sure like "write 5 sentences describing your connection to your work.....5?! We do pressure ourselves, we do sit back too much, i guess it's that old 'balance' thing. I'll let you know when I find it!


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