My #OneWord365 for 2021

Dec 21, 2020 | Creativity & Inspiration, Gratitude & Other Reflections

Do I dare?

I mean, it just feels like tempting fate, at this point. Resolutions – SMART goals – used to work well enough. Specific. Measurable. Aspirational. Reasonable. Time-bound. This #OneWord365 business, though? For several years, for all the good it’s done me to choose a word to serve as a guiding beacon to my intentions, I might as well choose Death, War, or Destruction. It would practically guarantee immortality, peace, and growth.

I’m not good at this. This year’s word? Oh, such a wonderful word, when I chose it in 2019. I even gave a Toastmasters speech about it.  Can’t remember, now, what I blathered on about. The word was #Observant. I suppose if we count #NavelGazing as observant, I have mastered it. I am ready to move on. In all seriousness, I suppose that I have been observant within the four walls of my home. I have observed my husband and the myriad ways he cares for me, for our family, and for our home. I could stand to be more active than observant.

Somewhere in my psyche, there is a disappointed child, pouting. That child got what it deserved, for rudely kicking 2019 as it headed out the door, I suppose. But for that child, 2020 was like Ralphie expecting the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle and unwrapping the box to find soap and underwear and a little lump of coal. Unlike some people, the pandemic has not inspired me to learn six new languages, create and care for a sourdough starter, paint the walls (or anything else, for that matter). Like others, it has thrown me for a loop. I am not depressed; I’m just…on hold. Like a plane, circling O’Hare or JFK at Christmas.

I am at least as functional as a snarky coffee mug, and compassionate enough to admit it to my fellow dishware and say that maybe we should just rejoice that we’re still able to hold onto our coffee.
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I am at least as functional as a snarky coffee mug, and compassionate enough to admit it to my fellow dishware and say that maybe we should just rejoice that we’re still able to hold onto our coffee. A sturdy mug needs do no more. It is enough to stand, stalwart among the others, confident that it will be plucked from the shelf, filled to the brim, and warmed to its core – if only it weathers the settling dust, the occasional waterboarding in the dishwasher, the mockery from newer crockery. We don’t need to be glazed over; we need to tell the stories hinted at by our crazing, tiny lines, and cracks.

If #Observant is a way of seeing, I’ve written more poetry this year than I have in a decade, and a few readers seemed to enjoy it – even egged me on to write more of it. I have written or recycled 170+ stories on Medium. That’s paid only slightly better than child labor wages in a third-world country, but this “gamification” of writing has kept me writing. At about a dollar a day, it has paid for the web hosting of this blog that I have, ironically, neglected in favor of it.

As I was cleaning up for the holidays, I ran across the dusty optimism of Writers’ Market 2020, purchased in 2019 – its price now a penance, like an unused gym membership. But it is still there. Are the publishers who are listed in it? Are they still there? I wonder. 2020 has been hard on everyone. We’re not “all in it together,” but there is a common thread that that connects us all, in some way, isn’t there? I run a very small writers group on Slack, for writer-friends, where we can escape the din of rancorous politics and the staticky noise of social media to focus on writing, helping one another out, and keeping each other accountable – if that’s requested – for our stated goals.

I’m grateful for teachers and editors who taught me not to fear the red pen, and for mentor-managers who instilled in me a work ethic and the ability to detach from the product when it came to writing that has spilled over even into blogging and self-publishing. Do your best, be grateful for the editors who keep you from looking stupid in public, and when everyone misses that glaring error and it’s there in print to haunt you forever – let it go. Let it serve as a reminder that perfection is unobtainable. “Better” is a good goal. And “good enough” is truly good enough – for today. The ability to practice observe-and-release, in life, is a gift. It helps break us out of holding patterns, lets us land, so we can take off for new destinations.

To answer the question I posed at the start: Of course I dare.

I am dragging that recalcitrant, pouting child out into the sunshine. “Hello, Brat. Talk to me. Or run across that open field and play. Get out of the corner, stop reading about microbiology and economics – you’re boring yourself to death over there – and stop acting as if the world’s stopped turning, because you know it hasn’t. You’d have flown off its surface, bumped into the gnarly branches of your favorite tree, and had all the oxygen sucked from your lungs while you freeze-dried yourself and shattered into a million sparkling shards, only to melt in your next encounter with a star. So get up and throw yourself down the rabbit holes.”

Rekindling the magic of imagination doesn’t happen with a cutesy spark of inspiration, clearly. My Muse, such as it is, requires reaching in with both hands, rooting around in the brain for it, wherever it’s sulking, then grabbing hold with a determined snarl and giving it a yank.

My #OneWord365? IMAGINE.

Imagine that.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

39 Comments

  1. Pat Stoltey

    I had a guiding word for 2020: FINISH! I did pretty well wrapping up a lot of old projects. Now I’m looking for the perfect guiding word for 2021, one that is less confining and more adventurous. Still working on it…
    Pat Stoltey recently posted…Everyone Needs a Little Time Away from WritingMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      FINISH!! That’s a great word! (In a way, that was my 2019 – I did have a goal to FINISH a crochet project that took me a full year; I finished my corporate career – at least put the wheels in motion, though it wasn’t official until April 2020.) I think “IMAGINE” is anything but confining and certainly adventurous. Especially if you look at it in light of my favorite quotation:

      β€œUntil one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initative or creation, there is one elementary truth…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves. too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way.

      Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

      ― W.H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

      Reply
      • Bob Jasper

        Love your favorite quotation. I think Rasheed has that as one of his favorites, too. I like your word “Imagine,” too. I imagine πŸ™‚ it will be a fun one. You talked about your imagination sulking in the background in one of your comments/replies. I can just picture that: You typing furiously away, thoughts ricocheting around in your head while your impish imagination sits idly on a stool behind the curtain waiting for its cue to come onstage. From where I sit, it seems your imagination is active 24/7 in your writing as you come up with many delightful turns of words and phrases that tell me you are having loads of fun.

        Reply
        • Holly Jahangiri

          He does, indeed. It’s a quotation from William H. Murray. See https://quoteinvestigator.com/tag/william-hutchison-murray/ (It’s very often misattributed, and I enjoy backstory. I found and used this quotation when I was quitting smoking, in 2006. Between that and a whole mess of jalapeno peppers, cigarettes didn’t stand a chance. I’m not a huge fan of all the quotation memes floating around on the Internet; most are mere platitudes, and misattribution is rife. But this one? It’s worth framing and hanging on the wall, I think.)

          I really love that I made you see my “impish imagination.” Your description proves it! That is exactly how it looks, some days! And oh, I wish it were active 24/7 – it was, once upon a time. I think it needs nurturing. It wants a good tree-climb, but that may have to wait till I accomplish my weight loss and fitness goals. I need more upper body strength to pull myself up into the branches! (Great motivator, there, though!)

          Reply
    • Ruchi Nasa

      I loved reading this …and i couldn’t help not smile at the way on the way you took it up …death, destruction…and the words you have had over last 2 years … ill wait for your imagination to take shape in your writings.

      Reply
      • Holly Jahangiri

        I think the first time I did this, the word was “Commit.” Boy, was that a mistake. I think I have a different mindset about it, this year, and the mischievous mental imp may be happy playing with “Imagine.”

        Reply
  2. Mitchell Allen

    I absolutely love this essay. All the references to your other stories came washing down the page to remind me of who you are. You have picked the perfect word and I know it will guide you beyond the next 365 days. πŸ™‚

    Happy Holly Days!

    (Do you get that a lot? you did write that you would take the greetings in any form, so heh.)

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Anubis and ArtemisMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      You know, your friendship, your editing, your commenting – you’re a Christmas gift to me, Mitchell! No, I don’t actually get “Happy Holly Days!” a lot, but I have threatened to deck a few folks who’ve laughed and tried to “deck the halls” with ME. I’m pretty much always happy and festive, even when I start out not feelin’ it, but I’m not always “Holly Jolly” at Christmas, either. That said… well. Burl Ives. I mean, hard to hate on Burl Ives, that jolly old snowman. And I will absolutely take POSITIVE greetings and good wishes in any form, for any reason at all. I totally mean that. πŸ™‚ Happy holidays, and… have a Holly jolly Christmas, Mitchell!

      Reply
      • Mitchell Allen

        Awww. Thanks. We’re having a great time already. Stay-at-home, but still celebrating. Tree’s up, music’s playing. Cookies baked. Larder stocked. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. (My kids will shovel. LOL)

        Cheers,

        Mitch
        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Anubis and ArtemisMy Profile

        Reply
        • Holly Jahangiri

          That works! πŸ™‚ It won’t snow here, but ironically, it might – where my kids live!

          Driving on snow is not one of the things I miss about snow. It’s pretty stuff, and nothing can make you feel warm like a fire in the fireplace and a nice hot chocolate while snuggling under a blanket with your honey – but I’m good with tropical Christmases, too.

          Reply
  3. Mitch Mitchell

    That’s an interesting word of the year. I “imagine” you broke out in 2020 once things shut down and you retired. As you said, you wrote more poetry (most of which I didn’t understand lol). You also started doing art; don’t know if that was new, but it was a first for me.

    I chose a different word because I need some structure this coming year. It won’t be easy, but life never is.

    BTW, didn’t you pick on me because CommentLuv kept telling you to use “http:? lol
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…The Word For 2021 Is… PlanningMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I did pick on you about CommentLuv. You’ve FIXED IT!! Yay! (That was a hint? I’m sure that was a hint. If not before, then after dinner. πŸ˜‰ I did READ your post earlier today – just haven’t commented yet.) Wait, mine didn’t make you do that, did it??

      Reply
  4. Modern Gyspy

    Imagine is a great word for the year! I actually enjoy choosing a WOTY – I’ve been choosing one since 5-6 years if I remember right! And I’ve been quite pleased with how they’ve guided my years – sometimes in very unexpected ways, too!
    Modern Gyspy recently posted…The 2021 book bingo reading challengeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I love the smorgasbord of words that is our language. I’ll even borrow (steal) from other languages. Force me to choose ONE, and my brain goes, “WTF would I do that? There are so many tasty, crunchy, scintillating, gorgeous, exciting words out there – and you want ONE? You’re nuts.” I have to find one that’s broad enough to encompass others. The mischievous imp in my brain is satisfied with that sort of “cheat” and lets me get by with it for a bit. We both know it won’t preclude all the other deeply satisfying words in the lexicon, anyway. It just gets to sit on top of the tree for a year. The tree has many branches.

      Reply
  5. Unishta

    I’m glad to know that I wasn’t the only one in this pandemic who didn’t learn a new skill, and whose life was thrown for a loop. What made me most mad was that despite all the increased work, I didn’t lose a SINGLE OUNCE while all around me were literally melting away with the extra work they had to do.
    Imagine is a great word but don’t you do it all the time?
    Anyways, enjoy imagining a fresh in the coming year and hope you have a more regular life once again.
    Unishta recently posted…#embrace : My word for 2021My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Stress eating much? (I mean, if so, you are DEFINITELY not alone.)

      “Imagine is a great word but don’t you do it all the time?” You’d think. But oddly enough, no. Sometimes I let the world around me create too much static noise. Imagination suffers (and sulks) in the background.

      Reply
  6. Vinitha

    Imagine is a great choice, Holly. And since you have an overactive imagination (your bio) I see how perfect that word is for you.
    I have been choosing a word of the year since 2015 and absolutely love how a single word guides me through the year. For 2020 it was Choice. Though the pandemic was not a choice I made, I am happy about the way I chose to survive throughout the year. There were some meltdowns. But I am absolutely certain that I was more elegant than ever, even through the meltdowns, ask my husband. πŸ™‚
    Love your sense of humor, Holly. And again thank you for posting that message on WT group that day in April. That was the nudge that made me choose to open my Medium account and write. It gave me a direction to go on. I am writing a lot, though all of it don’t make it to Medium. Your message and subsequent interactions helped me beyond my expectations. Thank you for messaging at the right time. πŸ™‚
    Wish you a peaceful, and fun year ahead! πŸ™‚
    Vinitha recently posted…Fiction Monday – 25My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I certainly USED to have an overactive imagination – lately, I haven’t quite been living up to my bio, but I’m getting there. πŸ˜‰

      Oh, 2020 was all about Choice, wasn’t it? Good word! I am so glad that I caught you with that nudge at the right time, and that you CHOSE to follow that path. It’s been great watching you have fun over there, too. I’ve been a bit less active, lately, and I really do want to focus HERE (but over there helps build an audience, so maybe what I need is just to nudge them harder over in THIS direction, too!) It has definitely helped to keep me writing, though, in a year when I might otherwise simply not have.

      Elegant meltdowns. What a picture. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  7. Bob Jasper

    Loved your post and choice of word. But, as others have said, you seem very imaginative to me. It shines in your writing. My word was going to be “Write” but then I decided to make it more challenging, so it will be “Publish” and not just on Medium, either. Anyone can publish just about anything on Medium. My goal is to have something published by EOY 2021. Why do I want to publish? Just to prove that I can write something good enough, as viewed by an editor, to warrant inclusion in their publication. Thanks, to you, Holly, I have some other writing goals, too, which may help me along the way (I’m thinking of your challenge to writers and to poets).
    Bob Jasper recently posted…Tim, thank you for sharing this moving story.My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      This makes my heart sing, Bob! I believe in you, and I want to see you reach this goal – it’s very attainable, I think. I’ve seen your efforts, your growth as a writer, and your determination. A lot of people stop at the dream – they don’t put in the work. You put in the work, and you WILL make this happen in the coming year. I will do what I can to help along the way, and be there to celebrate when you achieve it.

      Reply
  8. Jyothi

    Writing has been the toughest thing for me this year. Hats off to you for doing so much of it and so so well. I “imagine” your 2021 is going to be great too. Season’s Greetings my friend. My WOTY is “Serendipity”.
    Jyothi recently posted…Serendipity – Word Of The YearMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I can’t say that I’ve felt super inspired to write, but writing on Medium – setting the goals, first, of making it pay for the $5/mo. membership fee, then second, of making it pay for my web hosting, resulted in “gamification” of writing and that worked to at least keep me doing it. That has more value than the pennies a day earned right now.

      I have come to see that imagination is unlocked by a combination of things – play (which adults do far too little of), boredom without stress (which we either have far too little of, or have given ourselves anxiety about being “busy” or looking “busy” all the time, lest we be judged “lazy”), feeding through reading (fiction – and perhaps the more outlandishly unreal, the better), and dreamful sleep (which comes from all of the above things, I think).

      “Serendipity” is a marvelous word! I’ll be over there to read your take on it in a flash!

      Reply
  9. Geethica Mehra

    Imagine is a very creative word. It opens up so many new ideas and closures for unending thoughts and incomplete projects. In short, imagine your new path and start walking on it.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Exactly! It encompassed a lot of ideas, really – most importantly, to let the ones tinged in wonder and magic shine bright. To imagine all the possibilities, not just what can be seen and touched. To work harder at sharing one imagination with another. The poetry has been a good exercise in that. Also, the realization and acceptance of the fact that a novel-length work of fiction may not be my thing, and that “imagining” it is stifles the imagination that plays in short-story land. Whatever comes out, comes out. Imagination is play, isn’t it? But it can be quite serious, and should not be taken lightly or taken for granted.

      Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Geethica, forgive me – and my overzealous Bouncer, over there. I have fished your comment out of the moat, dried it off, and I hope that you will come back and be greeted by Mr. Anti-Spam with the deference you deserve. I think the holidays make him surly. That, or he was flirting with you, showing off his muscles, and accidentally pushed you into the moat. Come, dry off by the fire. Have some hot chocolate.

      I’m not going to worry so much about closure and finishing projects – this year is about immersing myself in imagination. Maybe next year should be about editing and finishing and publishing and such, but 2020 hasn’t been QUITE the fun I imagined, so I plan to imagine harder in the coming year!

      Reply
  10. Sunita Saldhana

    I absolutely loved reading this. You have a fantastic way with words. I am looking forward to a lot more posts for you now that you are going with imagine the next year. Where will it take you? What will you find? I can’t wait to find out

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Sunita! I have, by the way, had a very stern word with the Bouncer. You should be treated as the honored guest and friend that you really are, henceforth. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading this. I dragged my feet, but once I got to writing, I had a bit of fun with it, myself. As for “Where will it take you? What will you fine? I can’t wait to find out” – heh – you and me, both! It will be a journey filled with magical discoveries (or creations) I hope!

      Reply
  11. Pragya Bhatt

    Loved reading this post Holly, “…it’s price now a penance, like a gym membership”. I’ve been hesitant about joining writer’s clubs and writing prompts because of some strange fear about not being good enough or creative enough to even complete them, but your blog has inspired me to write more!
    Pragya Bhatt recently posted…Word of the Year (2021)My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I’m so glad to have inspired that, Pragya!

      Being “good enough” isn’t so hard. In a way, it’s like a lottery – you can’t win if you don’t enter. You can’t improve as a writer if you don’t write. And what difference would it make if you did, if you never share your writing? Others’ opinions are just that. Look at the most enduring work of literature, or the most popular bestselling contemporary novel. I guarantee there’s more than one person out there who hates everything. And more than one who gushes over it, unless it truly, horribly, offensively SUCKS ROTTEN EGGS WRAPPED IN MONKEY POOP.

      I guarantee your writing is good enough and creative enough for SOMEONE. πŸ™‚ Can you compete with [insert bestselling author here] today? Maybe not yet. But don’t worry about that. Just capture a few readers for more than 30 seconds. That’s a good start, right there. Have fun doing it, and you’re a winner!

      Reply
  12. Shilpa Gupte

    Your posts transport me to a far away place, which at times feels amusing, and at times makes me look at my life from a new angle. πŸ™‚
    I haven’t chosen any word for the new year. Instead, I have decided to put into practice certain things , like what you told me to do (on my blog). Focusing on ME without wondering what others think about me is what I wish to do. Let’s see how that goes.
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…The lessons I learned from 2020My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      This is the best resolution of all, Shilpa! I look forward to seeing how it goes, and I hope that before the end of 2021, you have no lingering doubts.

      Reply
  13. Shilpa Halwe

    Your posts are at times amusing, and at times make me look at life from a new angle, Holly! πŸ™‚

    I haven’t chosen any word for 2021. Instead I have decided to work on myself, focus on myself and be kinder to myself for I need to.
    Let’s see how well that goes.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      So…”self-care”? “Inner-work”?

      Thank you for your kind words! I like to be amusing and thought-provoking at the same time!

      Reply
  14. Patricia Doyle

    Love your tone of voice! I’m heading to read some more of your posts after this comment.

    I’ve been choosing a WOTY for a number of years, some successful, some not. Last year was RELEASE. It worked for me as I was needing to release a lot of self-limiting belies and resentment. Still work to do there, but shifting to COURAGE this year. Mostly the courage to face my fears. But also the courage to be my true self (and not worry about eternal validation).
    Patricia Doyle recently posted…Looking Ahead to 2021My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I think you’re not alone in this, Patricia! I was just talking with another friend about self-confidence, and letting go of the worry over others’ opinions of us. I don’t NOT care about others’ opinions – but if I try to second guess them and their expectations, and twist myself into a pretzel to do what I think it is they want me to do, I’m not living MY life, am I? To be fair, that works both ways. Grown-ups get to make choices and deal with the consequences. But we only GET one life, for sure.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed this – hope you find lots more fun, here, as you explore!

      Reply
  15. CorinneRodrigues

    It’s difficult for me accept that you of all people need to β€˜imagine’ more – but I’m waiting with bated breath for the outcome of your choice of word! I sense that retirement has given you the freedom to write a lot more and I’m sure there’s a lot more creativity in store from you for us to enjoy!

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      You might be surprised at how an imagination can hibernate, given a regular day job, or a warm plush blanket (I call it a “teddy bear skin”) and a pandemic. πŸ™‚ It’s not dead, by any means – just hibernating. Definitely not dead, as a former coworker could attest – I once commented code with an entire party of hydras and dragons, whilst hunting orcs – er, bugs in the code. I wrote the story as I progressed, leaving clues like breadcrumbs to mark which bits had already been tested. Insanity and hilarity ruled the day, and eventually, the bugs were squashed. So yes – it’s still there, still active. Just needs to be coaxed out to play and reminded it now has free rein.

      Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I hope so, too, Shahzaib. Looks like you’ve got a brand new blog, there! Good luck with that, and with the freelancing. What is it you do? Writing, programming…?

      Reply

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