Why You Should Pick a Word of the Year

A few years ago a friend encouraged me to pick a word of the year. Honestly, I thought it was silly. Every year I dutifully write down a detailed list of goals that I want to achieve over the next twelve months. Why would isolating one word do anything different to help me on my journey? I pretty much dismissed it until one night I woke up and caught just a snippet of overnight news. I saw the headline about Broadway and then I heard actor and educator Robert Hartwell speaking about his dream. He described what he was doing as “unprecedented” and like a lightbulb this word caught my attention and I got up to write it down.

I have talked about the power of this word before on the Make A Way Media site here and here, but I am including a quote below that helps illustrate my point.

“Unprecedented has become my touchstone. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I am reminded that I am doing something unprecedented- it’s not supposed to be easy.”

I did not understand the power of having a word of the year. Now I do. While it’s great to have a list of goals, at times that list can feel overwhelming. It is not a quick read, and it is not really a guide post. The list is there, almost like a to-do list- so I do not forget the promises I made to myself.

But this list would not have helped me when I needed to focus or recenter. And that is exactly what my word of the year has done for me. In 2022, I picked my very first word of the year. I held on to that word like a lucky rock in my pocket. When I felt crazy or silly (as dreams can sometimes make you feel) I reached within and rubbed that metaphorical rock I was carrying around.

Unprecedented, I would say to myself. This was the first year for the the first in-person Louisville Book Festival and the first year I was really carrying around this dream I have of getting a story to Broadway and pitching it to people. I often felt overwhelmed. I often felt crazy.

Broadway? Why me? There are millions of people who want to tell a story on Broadway and the odds are not in our favor. But they are not me. I am doing something unprecedented. It will not be easy.

Repeating this word to myself, was a quick dose of anti-anxiety medicine. Whenever I said the word, I was able to shake off all doubt and stand a little taller- just with that one word.

I had a lot of success in 2022. I had some media coverage for the festival and my Broadway concept. I was able to get meetings with producers. I got sponsors for the festival. But I grew tired by the end of 2022. Great things had happened, but I wanted more. I got discouraged. I made my annual list of goals, but this time it just all felt like too much. How was I ever going to bring these dreams to life?

This time my word for 2023 came from an internal answer. The word floated to me from the universe or maybe one of my angels I have looking out for me and I said out loud: Perseverance. All good things take time… and this was a lot. Like a lot a lot. What did I expect to happen in one year. I needed perseverance. Again, this word came in handy many times throughout the year, but it really saved me one time in particular.

For the first time I attended Broadway Con in the summer of 2023. (Yes, that’s a thing and it’s amazing!) I came prepared with my notepad and pen to take plenty of notes and ask all kinds of questions about how Broadway shows are made. I felt great… until I attended one panel presentation about women in Broadway and there was a lot of discussion about how to support women in Broadway, but at the end of the presentation I could not get through to any of the women panelists to “connect”. I was so discouraged I returned to my hotel room and cried. I told myself I was crazy and asked myself why I was there. Would I ever be able to connect with anyone who would believe in this dream and want to help me tell my story on Broadway or otherwise. Just as I had convinced myself it was a total waste of time to come here, my word of the year floated to the top of my brain and knocked on the inside of my forehead.

Hello! Remember me? Perseverance? You picked me because you knew there would be times you were going to feel this way and you would need me to remind you that you have to tough it out!

Hi Perseverance. You are so right. Big dreams require perseverance. I remember now. I must persevere even when things look bleak. I must believe in my dream. If I don’t, who will?

In that moment, that word saved me and I was able to come out from under the covers of the bed in my hotel room, wash my face, straighten my clothes, and look myself in the mirror as I whispered to myself, “You have to persevere. You have to push through.”

I went back down to the conference area with a whole new attitude. I decided to have fun, listen, take notes, learn some things, laugh, meet people… and dream. My dream persevered. It still lives. I have not given up. (Side note- I also met a huge Broadway producer who is connecting me to a script writer!) That one word totally rest my sour attitude and saved the rest of that conference for me.

And now, here we are in 2024 and it is time to pick a new word. I meditated. I made my list of goals. I visualized what I want my professional life to look like. I thought about my past work, my future work and where I am headed and this time this word floated to the top of my brain: MAGIC!

This word has had some symbolism in our family for at least three decades and the last book I wrote is called Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess– A Little Magic. I believe in magic- not the kind of magic that witches brew up, but the magic of the world we live in. I believe in miracles. I believe that the universe rewards you when you work hard and make your intentions clear. I believe that magic happens every day. I have seen it with my own eyes. A loan that everyone told you you could not qualify for, yet somehow you did. A bill you could not pay and all of a sudden there is a refund check you never applied for and di not expect in the mailbox. Love, that when you finally sat still and stopped chasing, somehow found you. And butterflies. And rainbows. And stars, And babies. Yes, I believe in magic. I am not surprised that this word found me.

This year we celebrate TEN years of Make A Way Media and FIVE years of the Louisville Book Festival.

I am here for it. I am ready for a magical year. Watch. Me. Work.

Do you have a word of the year? I would love to hear it. It may be just what I need in 2025! Happy New Year!!!

Me and Jodi Piccoult. I got to see a preview of her new Broadway musical!

So much fun with Broadway Off-Broadway character tributes (Audrey and Audrey II).

Back again the next day with Annie and Daddy Warbucks!

It was a real confidence booster to meet Broadway writing legend Robert Horn (Tootsie, Shucked, Hercules).

I saw Chicken and Biscuits twice and got to meet the groundbreaking writer, Douglas Lyons. I have followed his career as an actor too (Book of Mormon, Parade).

I learned a lot and had a great time.

I saw the Book of Mormon… I don’t know… twelve times? It may be closer to twenty.

My heart was full when I met Bobby Lopez who wrote the music for this show which is INGENIUS!!! Wow.

You have to get out of your comfort zone

and take a chance.