Friday, January 5, 2018

Five Words for 2018 - First Friday Post - January 5th

Happy New Year to you all! I hope the first days of the year have been bright and inspired in each of your worlds. :)

Over the years I've had quite a few people ask about the words I choose each New Year as my focus words for the coming 365 days. Thinking of it again of late, I have been more focused on exactly how that process works and the answers were a bit surprising to me,  so I thought I would share them here with you as well as the words that I've chosen for 2018.

I tend to not spend too much time choosing the words each year. At least, not right at the end. I start thinking of them early in December and by the last days of the Year, I pretty much have the new words settled on.

What I discovered this last week or so as I thought about 2017's words was that the words really reveal themselves to me and I learn the most about them in relation to myself at the END of the year!
All year I DO see them above my calendar or on my desktop and I take time with them all at some point, maybe picking one for a day to really focus on or apply. But it is at the end of the year, when I am looking back, that I seem to find how those words worked for me or what I learned over that year as it pertains to them.

Last year, one of the words I chose was "Vagary".  Strange word, right? It is. . . and I chose it for it's more archaic definition which I only discovered as it was Merriam Webster's word of the day sometime before and it just sort of stuck with me in the back of my mind.

"In the 16th century, if you "made a vagary" you took a wandering journey, or you figuratively wandered from a correct path by committing some minor offense. If you spoke or wrote vagaries, you wandered from a main subject. These senses hadn't strayed far from their origin, as vagary is probably based on Latin vagari, meaning "to wander." Indeed, in the 16th and 17th centuries there was even an English verb vagary that meant "to wander." Nowadays, the noun vagary is mostly used in its plural form, and vagaries have more to do with unpredictability than with wandering."

I chose the word hoping that it's own wandering in the sense of it's definition over the years might help remind me to wander in my creative journey. To stray from the well worn path. To pay attention to, or think back on, my own wandering journeys in life. Maybe even to be a little more unpredictable creatively. So how it affected me on any given day I cannot recall BUT I know that as I spent time over this last week of the year looking back, I DID practice and invoke vagary and I can see how the wandering I did in my creative work paid off.

My life, I came to see, has been one great adventure in vagary. Changing careers four times, each by choice even when things were just fine in the previous ones. Striking out on the cusp of 40 years old to begin an art practice/Etsy shop by taking up a new medium of polymer clay. Moving across the country on a gut feeling just before I turned 24. Living in a big city til then, then a small town, then onto another big city and now a small town again.

Yes, I've wandered. Strayed from the path. Practiced vagary before I even knew the word had that older meaning.

So in realizing that these words seem to etch themselves deepest at the end of the year, I decided to choose five words for 2018 and went with simpler, less archaic choices. lol

Because these are words I might easily overlook in that search for a little pizazz. (Ooooooh wait. . . pizazz. . . hello word for 2019!)

For 2018, I chose these five words:

Challenge - challenge myself to try new creative ideas, follow inspirations, push forward on my bigger long term goals, stretch my comfort zone into the difficult and uncertain creatively and challenge myself to venture into realms not yet explored in myth, fantasy and sci-fi reading. 

Value - Value my work and my time. I have often undercharged for just about everything I've done in life at some point or another. I forget, when say we are speaking of custom orders, to factor in the time spent communicating, planning, looking for materials I need and trying and retrying techniques etc. Maybe it's meant to show me how to value my time by accepting fewer commissions so I can do even more of the work my heart wants to do. I've also recently begun donating to funding art projects on kickstarter. I'm learning to discern value of what I give to there as well since I cannot donate to everyone I would like to. 

Whimsy - Sofie laughed at this one because, really, do I need a reminder of this? lol But yes, I do, and in this case I am thinking most of my writing. Finding the balance between a good, emotive and large scale story and the magic of a fantasy world. A small example: It's all well and good that I've included the plausible use of messenger birds for long a distance/expedient message delivery system but where's the whimsy? Ahhhh, so then I decide that these are "honey guides",  birds who find their way home or to another location based on a particular scent/strain of honey that they are conditioned to seek out and identify. And they have small quivers on their backs to carry the messages. There are real "honey guide" birds in our world though they are not messengers. . . all I did was stretch the truth a bit there to make them more homing pigeon-like if one could train them to discern the various scents of the honey over distances. :)   So yes, finding whimsy around every corner in the year to come. 

Organization - OK, yes. . . Boring! But boy could I use a bit more of this. Work space, packing room, notes and ideas, recipes, you name it. I tend to let things get a bit too in disarray before I tackle them and that's never fun.

Routine - As in a more monastic sense of the word. Monasteries have always fascinated me no matter the type or the belief. I've spent time in a Zen monastery here in the NW though I am also drawn to the Benedictine rule and Franciscan sects and the schedules they keep. Now if the pslams and vespers were say, writing and creating time instead, I'd be in a robe faster than you could blink an eye!!  The simplicity of the life and the repetition of it is what draws me.  I need it to be my most productive.  Work periods, meal periods, end of day etc. Not so regimented that there is no room for spontaneity but certainly most days, most weeks, and most hours are best filled with that scheduled intent for me. 

       So what will those all bring? Well I hope to share anything along the way if it pops up but it will likely be the end of 2018 before I can look back and assess all the little things that came to pass under each heading.  Once, in the Zen monastery, I was sent out into the world after a weekend retreat with a task. To pick a location and watch the entry door of said place for a few hours. Just to observe how people reacted and related to that door. It seemed pretty Zen and I expected to not "get it" because, you know. . . Zen.

None of the openings of the door were memorable in and of their own BUT, at the end of the day, the cumulative effect was very striking. I saw such a variety of ways people approached the door, how close they got before grabbing the door knob, if they were regulars I could tell because the door had a "hitch" to it, the doorknob was rickety and lower down on the frame than normal. Also, the door opened in and not out as most non-regulars seemed to expect it to. I saw how some people held the door for others while some were so in their own heads they didn't notice the person right behind them. I noticed people approach confidently or with a strong step and others cautiously and tentative as if the door might bite. . . And on and on. All of that from observing a door over a period of time.

So that's how I find the words work best. Over the long haul. I don't expect an enlightening occurrence any one time I choose to focus on a word. But 12 months from now? We'll see. ;)

Next month I will be back to my usual First Friday post showing new work.

Thank you for coming by, as always,



  1. Funnily enough, I actually knew the word, Vagary, already, probably from my mother as she had such a superb grasp of the English language. In fact, she would always encourage to be higher minded than to swear as swearing was for either the uneducated, lacking a good grasp of the language or for those too intellectually lazy to bother to find another perfectly apt word. She would implore us with, "The English language is a marvelous thing. Great classics have been written with it's exquisite prose. Use it!" :)

    So, funny question here: If you're a vegetarian too, say, would that make you a Vagared Vegetarian? :) Hee, try using that in your next round robin intro!

    1. I would have adored your mother Michael! I feel so very fortunate to have had two teachers in school who really pushed me to utilize our language fully. It taught not only to work at it for bettering myself but also to appreciate the many accents, slang and colloquial usage of it in the regions of this country. Words are so wonderful. Languages are so intriguing. . . I've pulled from the lot of archaic and lost words for my stories feeling like I want to give people a little gift of discovering a few of them along the way.

      Swearing. . . your mother was right there as well. Many years ago I had a friend who took up swearing more as a sign of her own "empowerment". . . though I never saw how that was supposed to work really and I told her I likened it to deciding to bake a pie with only mushy, overripe, low hanging fruit from the tree when the perfect fruit sat just out of arm's reach if you were willing to climb a little. :)

      Your vagared vegetarian vexes me! :)

    2. Great replies and love how you are helping people to discover these wonderful rarely used words of old. That will certainly help set the mood for your stories too. I always cringe when watching something that is meant to be from, say, the medieval ages but they use modern expressions like "cool" or give each other high fives or what have you. Ha.

      Yes, having your parents there was a gift indeed, not to be taken for granted.

  2. It's funny you chose Vagary last year as it's quite the opposite of what so many people gravitate towards - i.e. FOCUS! I love that wandering though and as you've noted before, is so crucial to the creative journey.

    1. I was giddy when I found the older definition which was new to me! I had found all the mileage in the classic "not all who wander are lost" that I could in life!! lol

  3. Nicolas, thank you for this post. So interesting reading why you chose these wonderful words for the year. I'm curious, what, if any, are Sofie's? Do they mesh with yours, for example?

    Challenge: Great for you, would not work for me, as, if anything, I need to mellow out more. With my work I tend to be very driven and can over perfect things. NO extra pressure needed there. :) I am already picky enough I suppose.

    Value: Ah, there's the rub - something all us creatives struggle with. I see Alexandra deal with this with people telling her to charge more, that she sells herself short, but then when she does she gets people saying, "Oh, $75 for a custom illustration of the entire family? I wasn't planning to pay more than $15." Are they serious? :o I think it is FAR easier if a photographer as actually taking a photo, vs designing, illustrating, sculpting, takes a mere second once the frame is pictured in one's mind and is fairly easy to do. Yet people will readily pay thousands for a large format glossy colour photo of a landscape or what have you.

    Whimsy: Such a great word and so a part of kidlit art. Your example is excellent. Keep it up. I almost always try to include an element of it in my various illos.

    Organization: Hee, jsut read Marie Kondo's Japanese Art of De-cluttering and the Magic of Tidying Up" book and you'll have it down pat as well as spark joy (also, the title of her sequel)! :)

    Routine: A fine goal as long as you also make room for the serendipity of lie where often that creative magic happens, as you all too well know. But yes, an undisciplined life of randomness all the time doesn't usually bear as much fruit.

    So, that last word brings me back to your one from last year: Can one practice vagary and routine all at once? Hmm... not sure on that. Hey, that could be an excellent post for you to muse and write, my friend.

    1. Michael! I love your input here and will add to this when time permits but for now, Routine vs Vagary - Yes, I will expand on that in the future. Looking at how I've come to discover the most for myself when looking back at the end of the year with each word, well, last week when I was musing over Vagary across the whole of 2017, I realized one thing. . . I wander my friend. . . OHHHHH do I wander!! lol

      I think the balance for me is going to be found in setting a loose routine without creating a regimented, tightly scheduled approach. So, "routine" may be to write from 5 to 7 am, then breakfast and then to sit and create each day from say 8 am to lunch time but with the exception of deadlines, to allow my self to wander within that block of routine time. To write where I am inspired and to create whatever I feel is calling me. . . Its tricky, yes agreed!

      And I will share Sofie's words when I return too!! Thank you so much Michael for sharing your thoughts and your feedback. It is always greatly appreciated!

    2. "Routine vs Vagary - Yes, I will expand on that in the future."
      -Fab! And I can't wit to read what were Sofie's and how she came to choose them, if they mesh with yours or what. What do the differences say for your journey, complimenting each other etc. :) Thank you. I'll be sure to check back in a couple of days or so.
      Totally get what you are saying above btw about that balance.

  4. So enjoy hearing your words and stories about why you chose them! I stick with just one but I can see why you choose 5, life is so full how can we limit ourselves to just a few words? I could easily adopt your 5 words as I think I need to work on all of them. But I plan to stick to my one as I need to focus on accepting life as it is , to stop all the striving I put myself through. .
    The honey guides are so great... I love authors who push reality just enough to make it magical... that is exactly why I love Alice Hoffman so much! Her fantasy is not simply fantasy, it is so realistic that it is easy to imagine minnows showing up in coat pockets like in ‘River king’ or roses blooming purple in winter, or that wishes can burn your tongue the moment you speak them.

    Your story about observing the door... so true and interesting. I just recently read in the book ‘Freedom Seeker’ about a ritual the author observed and planned to adopt. It was simply to pause in an entryway to allow herself, as well as the people within the room, time to adjust to the change in energy. I would like to try get as well. .
    I will be back later to read the rest of your conversation with Michael. 2 of my fav people discussing words; too good not to eavesdropping on!

    1. Andrea, this is the first year I went with five words and that's why i chose simpler, more direct ones too. :) And I usually choose one per day to keep in my mind. Striving, if it's not weighted with our own expectations, is good I think and I suppose it's that expectation around the ideal of success or accomplishment that does us in. I hope you find a good foundation with it this year!

      I just started reading "Nightbird" by Alice Hoffman! Sofie just read it and recommended it so I put it right the top of my list. I will add "River King" to the list too! You had me at "minnows showing up in coat pockets" :)

      I am also reading a book called "A Face Like Glass", which features a wonderful bit of world-building, underground-dwelling cheesemakers, wines that remove memories, perfumes that can disable or even kill! The author has used the senses so well as a foundation here and at the very crux of the story are expressions/faces. An entire civilization that has to learn expressions one at a time. The wealthier have more access to nuanced faces while poorer folk usually just have one or two basic expressions. Such an interesting idea. . . One of those books where you either can or can't suspend your disbelief because it asks a LOT! lol :)

      I like the entryway ritual. I did notice with doors, that people also change as they enter a room, most pull inward, not wanting to be noticed or a distraction and just a few seem to open or expand when they enter a room. As if reaching out to those already within. . .

  5. Happy New Year Nicolas!!
    I first have to thank you for your touching words on my blog! Means alot to me. What can I say, "You Get Me".
    I think you're going to have a wonderful year, with your 5 words! Actually, this year, I can see me doing some vagary! LOL! I need to get into a routine too, but I can't force myself to create. I actually would like to stay up at night and paint, but, can't do that right now. And, if I can't do that right now, I'm not suppose to! There is no blame, just love and growing!
    You and Sofie, must have a blast together!! Wishing you both, so many blessings! Big Crow Hugs to the both of you!!!

    1. You are always welcome. It's easy to get you because you come from a very open heart so there s little to maneuver around. You offer so much and possess a truly sweet spirit. No, never force yourself to create!!! Just allow yourself the space to! I've seen so many people who won't make the space/time/room for it but can't see that it's vital to give that to yourself!

      I know you make that time and it's integral to who you are!

      So, yes, just loving and growing. . . exactly. :) And yes, Sofie and I DO have a blast together. I cannot imagine doing what I do if we had not met. Im sure I'd be creating but she allowed and encouraged this dive into childhood to a deeper level than I even allowed for myself. That was priceless. . . in our world where there is such a fear of scarcity that often rules, we have embraced the idea of having enough wherever we are. Letting things grow naturally and maybe most importantly, we agree that life is not a race, not something to be won. . . just a series of experiences and pursuits with no failure possible as long as the intention is positive and directed forward with growth. : )

      Big Crow Hugs and blessings to YOU Stacy!

  6. Hi Nicolas :)

    I love vagary! Wonderful! :) And Pizazz...hmmm...I think I have that word tattooed on my brain lol! I love your words for 2018. Value is such an important one. And to me, so is routine. I'm a creature of habit and if my routines are upset, I am upset. I think that to accomplish things, some people do need more structure than others, and I agree that routine brings peace of mind and leads to valuing one's work. Interconnected words. :) I think that 2018 is going to be a wonderful year! :)

    I've chosen understanding and non-reaction. Understanding, more for myself, to give myself a break and to be more gentle with my emotions. And non-reaction because I am an empath and take on the emotions (good and bad) of others around me. In positive times, boy that is thrilling, I feel alive and great! But any negative emotion makes me physically ill so I'm trying to work on not reacting. It's hard though, but I"m up for the CHALLENGE!!! :)

    1. I understand that struggle Rain! While I believe you to possess a heightened ability to sense others emotions, as you say, I think we all do that to a degree and then we turn it off best we can to allow ourselves to accept what is around us. When I think back in my life, I realize that it was only when I accepted my own "gut feeling" or empathic abilities about the energy and emotions of others that I began to see why even people I truly loved may have to go. It's why I keep so few connections across moves, space and time. Negativity is a strong force, as is the positive of course, but we are all affected by the shadows and they often cling, even from great distances.

      Understanding is a beautiful choice! Especially in regard to self-love. I wish you well with both words and I look forward to anything you care to share as the year goes on in that area!

      Pizazz. I can't get it out of my head now either! lol I'm hoping the words reveal more to me, and about me, in ways that I do not expect.

      And for me, structure provides the canvas on which I can find my place each day. Without it, I can get lost in many other, admittedly wonderful pursuits but then when I sit back at the end of the day, I feel like I let myself down because often I drift to the easy/known/comfortable and do not sit with the more difficult ideas if do not make myself. Writing has been like that. The discipline would never have come if I had not found a time to do it every day and I would never have worked thru the painful early stages of fleshing out an idea or expanding the creation of the fictional world I was creating because it just seemed overwhelming at the beginning. But an hour a day at first? That made it possible. And I saw the small signs of progress and before i knew it, the time was flying and I wanted more! :)

    2. Pizazz is such a great word...maybe it's a psychological thing with me because it looks like pizza. Lol...

      I have read that if you want to get into the habit of writing, you have to sit down for that specific time frame each day...whether you work on your novel, write poetry or just write's a good habit and I know it works because I did that for a while when I had a novel in mind. I put it aside a few years back and haven't gotten back to the habit. One day I'll try again.

      You are so right that negativity is a strong force, and I've done the same, all toxic people are out of my life. I won't allow it anymore because it was killing me slowly. I surround my self with positivity now and it's amazing. But when that negative energy pops up, I am floored. Just an example, I went grocery shopping yesterday. I was in one of the aisles looking at a product and I felt this horrible sense of dread in my stomach. I looked around me and there was a woman huffing and puffing because apparently I was browsing too slowly for her. I hadn't even heard her approaching but I felt it. I'm sure many people can relate to that! I reminded myself to not react, so I just moved over a bit so she could GRAB her box and I just thought of my dogs and how fun and silly they are and that pain in my stomach eased up.

      The much-quoted phrase "the power of positive thinking" does work! :)