For the past couple years I have chosen a Word of the Year. For me these words are about intention and focus. Words are powerful. Words are magical. It's not always an easy task to narrow it down to a single perfect word for an entire year. In 2013 my word was Bloom, a beautiful word which ended up fitting wonderfully with all of the blooming I did in my life throughout that year.
When I spent time last December and early January trying to find my word for 2014 I made a list of many options, none of which were quite as beautiful or poetic as Bloom, but all of which were strong, meaningful words. I knew the intention I was after; I just needed to find the right word to encapsulate that intention. I ended up choosing Realize. It's kind of a strange word to set as a word for the year, but it felt right.
1. a. to bring into concrete existence: ACCOMPLISH
b. to cause to seem real: make appear real
2. a. to convert into actual money
b. to bring or get by sale, investment, or effort
3. to conceive vividly as real: be fully aware of
What I most wanted for the year was accomplishment. That the definition included wording about money was a bonus. (Money's not something we're supposed to talk about. As artists we're not supposed to say, This year I want to be able to support myself with my art... but isn't that an important goal for any artist? I know, the topic is much too big to get into right now and it's not my intention for this post so I'll move on). The word seemed to perfectly align with my goals. Even the third definition, though it wasn't one I contemplated much, would work as an intention for the year. Isn't it all about dreams and dreaming?
What's interesting to me is that although I did have plenty of accomplishments during the year, what ended up being the most important aspect of my word was the last definition, the definition that means UNDERSTAND. Understanding is so much more important than accomplishment. Or at least, let's say you can't have accomplishments without first having understanding.
In my journal at the end of last December I wrote: Here I am on the cusp of 2014, ready to plunge into this next adventure, ready to become who and what I truly want to be. Through and through -- artist, writer, crafter. Leaping, soaring over fears & doubts.
A beautiful thought, no? Things didn't quite work that way, at least not immediately. I had a hard time getting started. I met with a lot of resistance. Felt a bit defeated at times and generally lacked focus. It reminds me of this comic by Brian Gordon. When I saw it on Facebook in October I laughed out loud but also thought, yes. This work of being an artist is just that. Work. It's not just dreaming and magic (and beauty and joy). I came across the same idea in a marketing book I was looking at recently:
"You cannot be a dreamer and think everything is going to happen magically just because your artwork is fantastic. You actually have to get out there and do something."
-- Constance Smith, from Art Marketing 101
I'm not saying 2014 was a bad year by any means or that the other aspects of the meaning of Realize didn't happen to some degree or another, but what strikes me now is that overall it was, truly, a year of realization, a year of understanding ( I shared some of those realizations in this post and this one, too). Understanding is powerful. It might not be flashy or glamorous, but it is important. No, it is crucial. There's grace and beauty in it, too.
Here are a few of the year's realizations:
- I need to put the business of my art first. If I don't take it seriously, no one else will, either.
- I need a schedule, a calendar and written tasks and goals.
- I am directly responsible for my own success -- it's not about waiting to be "discovered".
- Never give up. Giving up is the only sure way to fail.
- I am on the right path and I need to keep going.
- Doubts and fears are part of the process but I cannot let them stop me from moving forward.
- It's ok to let go of goals/dreams/ideas that aren't aligned with what I truly want. Sometimes what we want is only what we think we should want, not what we truly want.
I am so grateful for this beautiful year of discovery and understanding of art and joy and accomplishment. Let me leave you with this:
Thank you to each of you for joining me on this journey. For reading my words and for sharing your encouragement with me this year. It means so much to me. Here's to a wonderful 2015 for us all!
*definition from Merriam-Webster online