January 1st, 2016

What word will guide your writing life in 2016?


Whether you make New Year resolutions or set goals, January is the perfect time to look forward. Over the last few years, I’ve been doing something a tad different. I think of one word that will guide me for the year. And then I make sure that what I take on meshes with my guiding word.

I challenged the WITS crew to do the same …

Here are ours.

My word for 2016: Refocus

The last few years have been chaotic on both the personal and professional front. A few amazingly wonderful things—signed with my brilliant agent and sold my debut book; great first retreat for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association—but to be perfectly honest, I let a lot of the chaos trip my forward momentum. So for 2016, I’m committing to refocusing. I’m committing to my writing, and I’m committing to me.

My word for 2016: Choice

I've spent years chasing publishing. 7 books, 2 publishers and 3 years later, I'm not saying I won't continue the chase. But I'm going to do so aware at all times I have choices - and not fixate on one target. This year, it's about what's best for me, and my work.

My word for 2016 is: Publish

will send queries and requested submissions this year. An agent, an editor with a contract toward publishing is the goal. This is the year I commit to sharing my stories. And being willing to make the changes in my lifestyle to do so.

My word for 2016: Discipline

I chase after my kid, volunteer at her school, work full time and squeeze in writing. But sometimes (okay, lots of times), I take an hour and curl up with my Kindle and my knitting. We writers need to read, but I also need to add some discipline to my writing schedule and do it before I play. I'm so close to being at the end of a big project and only discipline will get me there.

Now I’m challenging you guys. Add yours in the comments. 🙂

112 responses to “What word will guide your writing life in 2016?”

  1. I could pick from any of the above and be good with those - discipline, particularly. But, I think I'll go with determination. I vacillate too much in editing and need to just be determined to complete the process. Mmm, maybe I'll focus on three D's. Discipline, determination and direction. I'm more likely to remember that too. 🙂
    Happy New Year to you and the crew.

  2. POSITIVE - That has to be my word for 2016. I found myself getting discouraged from all the rejections or silence from my queries. And I caught myself slipping into negative thoughts in general. So for 2016, I pledge to stay positive, on my queries and my outlook on life.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      That's a great one, Joanne! Stay positive on what you can control - honing your craft, writing the next manuscript, connecting with other writers and agents. You'll be in a better place to move to the next stage in your writing career. And it will happen as long as you push forward and believe.

      Happy New Year!!

  3. I'm refocusing too, Orly. Let's do this!

  4. I'm working on being Positive in attitude and Persistent in action. After a tough year it's time for an attitude adjustment and being more persistent in making time for writing. That should do it, right?

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      My family always teases me about having a P problem although mine are patience and practicality. 🙂

      Being positive and persistent are definitely necessary! Armed with those, you'll be just fine.

      Happy New Year!

  5. lrtrovi says:

    An inspiring post, thank you. Great idea to sum it up in one word. I'm thinking mine will be OPENNESS. Remaining open to new ideas, creativity, trying and learning new things even if I fail and not berating myself for it. Being open and saying "yes" to new experiences which may enhance creativity. Not being so hard on myself or such a perfectionist that it shuts down my creativity and expression when it doesn't work out. More daring exploration in 2016!

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      That's perfect! I love that. May have to sprinkle some (a lot) of that on mine as well. 🙂

      Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to seeing what you do and where you go in 2016!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      lrtrovi, OPENNESS is the perfect word for me, too. I've got t be open to publish!

  6. Kate Sparkes says:

    Mine is "balance." I tend to let my writing time spill into my home/family time, and don't necessarily focus on work during assigned work hours. So for me, balance will mean focusing on each aspect of my life during its assigned time (writing and promo while the kids are at school, focusing on the family and home when they're here) so that I can give each part of my life my full, undistracted best. 🙂

    (It's actually a lofty goal, as my attention issues are quite impressive, and I have a hard time getting out of my imagination even when I'm not writing. But it's something to work toward.)

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      That's an important one, Kate. It's part of my refocusing one too.

      For what it's worth, I found that scheduling "writing meetings" can help. I block off two or three hours in the morning right after I drop my son off at school for writing. I get a meeting notification and all. 🙂 That also keeps me from planning other things during that time. Then write in time for promo, and another hour for grocery/cleaning/laundry.

      And write the word "Balance" on a sticky note and put it where you'll see it regularly. 🙂

      Happy New Year!

  7. Susan Breen says:

    My word is Joy. This is going to be a big year for me, with a new mystery series coming out and other projects in the work. I'm stressed about finishing what I need to finish, and how my books will be received. But I don't want stress to overwhelm me. I want to have fun with all these exciting things. I want to be thankful and joyful.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      That's perfect, Susan! You have a lot to be happy and proud about. Don't let the madness of everything else suck the joy from your accomplishment.
      Happy New Year!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      I love this, Susan! Thank you for the reminder that life is joyful, even when we can't see the joy because we're so caught up in the tiny things.

  8. Commit.

    For me this means the end of my habit of procrastination. Plan to do something and do it now. Not later. Or not as later as it would have been. 😉 I get everything done, I don't miss deadlines, but I am usually under the gun by my own hand. I think this will lessen stress and increase productivity. I hope! <3

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      I'll keep you committed if you keep me focused. 🙂
      Happy New Year, Amy!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Yes, Amy! I am committing, too. Procrastination is certainly the killer of dreams. good luck to you.

  9. Gretchen says:

    risk- fear has been a defining quality of both my writing & non-writing life- fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of pouring myself into the work/life and failing any way- enough- I may have (may have) controlled the risk, but also severely limited the joy, the passion, and the creative "aaahs," the feeling that comes of having had something to say and saying it well, that sustain me- happy New Year, Orly!

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Oh, my friend! We're going to work on that this year. 🙂
      You have a lot to say and you say it brilliantly.
      Happy New Year. It's going to be a good one!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      I know that "things" can't get better if they don't change. But that change involves risk. Thank you for bringing RISK to the forefront, Gretchen.

  10. I hope self-publish counts as one word. I have about 6 completed manucripts.

  11. Judy says:

    Similar to readerchick, I chose Consistent.

  12. jannryan says:

    Wonderful post to wake up to on January 1st. If I have to select one it would be REFOCUS. But if I could do two, the second would be DISCIPLINE.

  13. I am on the same page as Laura- Choice.

  14. Kathy says:

    Very insightful post Orly, thank you! Reading through the responses, all of the above apply, but have defined it down to Believing. Like the old story of "The Engine that Could", the journey won't begin if I don't believe in my abilities to be "good enough"; it will simply end. So, I believe I will complete the first book of a trilogy, I believe I will find an agent who will help me discover the possibilities for my book, and I believe I will begin the second book of the trilogy.

    Happy New Year! I believe 2016 is a year of promise for us all!

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Believe in yourself and the path you chose ... yes!!! That's what kept me going the last few years as well. 🙂
      I believe it's going to be a great year, Kathy!!!
      Happy New Year.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kathy, "BELIEVE" is an excellent word. And so important. Some days when I just can't quite believe, I substitute with "TRUST." Trust that I'm on the right path and that there are forces in the universe, and friends in my circle, that will help me when I need it.

  15. spurvis500 says:

    I love this new year tradition. I've done this for the last couple years and must admit just putting the word out there does seem to have some magic.
    Two years ago my word was "energy". Last year my word was "balance."

    This year, I'm going big--"Spectacular" is my word for 2016.

    Happy New Year!

  16. Kat says:

    FUN--I want my writing to continue to be a fun activity for me, because I won't put my heart into anything that I don't enjoy doing! Happy New Year Orly and all writers. This is a great idea to focus on one word for your year of writing. One year at my church, I chose the word "confidence" and I did work on that one aspect of self-improvement all year.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      You're right, Kat, we have to remember that writing is fun, even when it isn't. 🙂
      And don't lose sight of the other fun things in life!
      Happy New Year!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Yes, Kat. When I started writing (just for myself) it was fun. I need to return to that energy. Thank you!

  17. My word is COURAGE. I want to (I WILL) take the next step in my career, write better books, take chances, be innovative and daring and improve the way I communicate with my audience, and stop being afraid of what might or might not happen.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Courage! I love that, Lecia.
      I hope you have a good writing tribe that will support you in that. It makes a world of difference.
      Happy New Year!

  18. Fenley Grant says:

    FEARLESS. I need to overcome my fear of rejection and my fear of success (for the changes it will make in my life.)

  19. alinakfield says:

    My word is COURAGE also. I have both an intimidating Series project and some volunteer work that breaks new ground for me. And when I'm stressed, I eat LOL!

  20. Sherryl says:


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      We can all relate to that word! Personally, "finish" is a word that looms large enough sometimes to knock me off my path. I have to swap in "determination" and set baby step goals, because otherwise I get tempted to throw the blanket over my head and whine. 🙂

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      We can all relate to that one, as Jenny said. Setting smaller goals - I'll finish one chapter this week; I'll finish one draft this quarter/year; I'll finish 5 blog posts, etc., can be an easier way to think of it. Set goals that will help you finish those projects. One big FINISH goal can be scary.
      Happy New Year, Sherryl!

  21. tashaseegmiller says:

    Deliberate. I have spent years reacting as a means of progressing, which has taken a toll on me physically (read emotional eating) and mentally. I can't control everything but I can be deliberate in how I pursue goals, how I consider my accomplishments and my future, and in how I care for myself, my family, everything.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Oh, Tasha, that's perfect!
      Happy New Year! Here's to a wonderfully deliberate 2016. 🙂

  22. taristhread says:

    NOW! My word is "now". I'm not waiting anymore, I'm doing this NOW!

  23. ewgibson says:

    My word is embrace. Last year, my choice was focus and I did. Ahhhh, part of the time, heh. Here’s why I’m choosing embrace this year.
    I will embrace the wins and the LOSSES of life for it teaches me what I need to learn about writing.
    I will embrace making mistakes and risking big time, it means I’m working out of my comfort zone.
    I will embrace the ups and downs of the writing process because some days the words fly for me and other days I am a bug-eyed fly.
    I will embrace the person I am now, the good, bad and the ugly in the morning wake-up individual in the mirror. Then I will embrace the person and writer I am becoming.

  24. Rebecca Hodge says:

    So many great suggestions! But I think 'embrace' is right for me. The upcoming year brings a radical change in day-job, the marriage of one of my sons, and the continuation of medical challenges for my mother. Going with the flow and 'embracing' the ongoing chaos will be the key to staying on track with my writing!.

    Thanks for a great New Year's start!

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      That's a lot and it sounds like you've picked the perfect word to guide you.
      Good luck with everything, Rebecca.
      Happy New Year!

  25. Susan Ekins says:

    My word is "Create". I want to create a writer's life, to create a sanctuary space for writing at home, and to create written work.

  26. stillalife says:

    Thank you to Orly and Jenny for Believe. I've queried one agent about my debut novel. She asked for 50 pages and then sent a nice rejection. I felt like I had just joined an elite club of writers who finish, seek to publish and receive a rejection. However, if I get fifty rejections, it's not likely I'll be so sanguine. "Believe" will help keep me going.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      I won't tell you how many rejections I received before signing with my agent. But I never stopped believing that this was what I was going to do. And as long you believe in yourself and your writing and your plan, you'll get there. It may take a month, a year, there years, but you will. And you're in good company every step of the way! 🙂
      Happy New Year!

    • LauraDrake says:

      417, Not that I counted or anything.

  27. Laura says:

    My word is BELIEVE. I need and desire to build confidence in my abilities and try new things.

    • LauraDrake says:

      You've got a great word there, Laura. You have to believe to be able to put your butt in the chair, to be able to build confidence, to . . .

      Great word.

  28. Lynda Jo says:

    Great post. I feel that I need two words. First of all, publish. The second is connect. I want to figure out how to connect with my readers.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Connecting is a big one. And something all writers need to work on!
      Happy New Year, Lynda!

  29. cricketrohman says:

    BREATHE--I need to take time to breathe this year. I have plenty of discipline, maybe too much. I get anxious and uptight, not when writing—writing is the joy in my life—but when doing everything else that comes with being a writer, and I catch myself not breathing, literally.

  30. Chris Bailey says:

    True. I'm seeking the truest thoughts to put on the pages. I've had plenty of rejections this year, and I hope that by seeking the deepest truths, I will find the right revisions, the right genre, and the right path to publication. Happy New Year to all of us!

  31. I like refocus and publish. Two I plan to do this year.

  32. Jens Lyon says:

    Grit. It suits my mindset and it also suits the tone of my book-to-be-published.

  33. I have a phrase this year--perseverance on my path.

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Perseverance is necessary to be a successful mathematician. (Have many problems and proofs have I gotten wrong as a student and in my career?) But it's a great word for a writer, too. Thanks for helping me "crossover" that word into my writing world.

  34. Joyce Valdois Smith says:

    Barbara, you chose the same word I was thinking of. Perseverance! I just need to stay focused and keep working on my writing and getting my book published. It's easy for me to find other things to occupy my time.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Those darn squirrels are so much fun, aren't they? Perseverance is a great word to focus on!! Happy New Year, Joyce!

  35. Louisa Mack says:

    This is a great exercise, thank you. Completion is my word. I have four first drafts and several unfinished drafts plus numerous folders of notes and ideas. This year I'm completing all those first drafts to polished ready for publication, the partially written stories to complete first drafts and at least one of those ideas fleshed out ready to write. Completion.

  36. Marilyn Hiliau says:

    Consistent balance - I need to be balanced with my life and consistently move forward toward my goals. I have often times focused on the total elephant instead of remembering that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I really get nowhere when I allow myself to get overwhelmed and do nothing. Physically I need to recognize that rest is just one aspect of my balanced life and paralyzing elephants have no place in my life.

  37. LauraDrake says:

    Chris, I believe you've found the key to success in one word. True.

  38. Ooo-- I'm going to go with +Determination+
    I was just reading a letter/essay in the book Letters to a Young Artist (Anna Smith), because the TOC title indicated the topic was how to grow confidence. To my surprise, the writer almost immediately turned the topic on its head and began to make a thourough case that determination was more important than confidence.

    Right now that feels true for me.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Ohhh ... that's interesting. *scurrying off to buy that book*
      Happy New Year!!

  39. Celia Lewis says:

    Cool. I've been choosing a word for my year for a decade or so.
    This year's word is ADVENTURE. In past years I've used Peace, Balance, Patience, Breath, Stretch... somewhat reflecting the various challenging years.
    ADVENTURE will guide me in both my personal life with family and friends, plus in my two passions: writing, and genealogy.
    Cheers to everyone for 2016!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Yes, Celia, writing (and publishing) is truly an adventure. And how much more fun will it be to look at "the business" like an adventure! Thanks.

  40. littlemissw says:

    My word is ACTION (felt like it needed capitals). I've never tried this idea before but I love it and I can't wait to give it a go.

    Happy New Year WITS.

  41. My word is EMPOWERED in all aspects of my life - not just writing. On the writing side, I need to learn more tech skills and stop being so dependent on others.

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Oh, Debbie, I'm in that boat, too! I'm learning how to do more things that I have called people for help. Before the holidays I went several round with my outside lighting. It took two weeks, but I fixed the fuses, timers, etc. And the irrigation system is almost fixed, too. Whew!

    • LauraDrake says:

      Take back your power, Debbie and Fae! There is a learning curve, but there's also lots of articles, blogs and other help out there!

      I just ordered a book on CCS and HTML, to be able to make small changes to my website that my theme doesn't have. It's scary, but hell, so is living, right?

      Boldly go!

  42. karenmcfarland says:


  43. Victoria Marie Lees says:

    For me, it's just do it! Try harder to complete writing projects and then send them out--even if it's just for critique. Thank you so much for this insight, everyone.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      Set a goal with an accountability buddy/critique partner. You'll be surprised at how much "easier" it is to stay focused when someone is waiting for pages from you. 🙂
      Happy New Year, Victoria!

  44. thewriteedge says:

    It took me a few days to come up with my guide word for this year. I really had to put some thought into it, but now I know what it is: intention. This year I plan to be more intentional when I talk to others about my writing.

    I think about it all the time, I write about it frequently, and I spend time actually writing. But when it comes to talking to others about my work, I feel a little shy. I want to change that this year. I want to be just as assertive face to face about my writing as I am on the computer about it. I want my intention to be just as clear in person as it is on the screen.

    So that's my word for 2016: intention.

  45. […] this year my guide word (for more on the idea of guide words, visit Writers in the Storm) is […]

  46. nicoleleiren says:

    My goal this year, both in my professional and personal life, is to TRAIN, not TRY. I spend a lot of time saying "I'll try..." instead of training myself to become better at whatever it is I want to do (health, writing career, family, etc.) So each time I catch myself saying I'll try, I stop and refocus my thoughts to "What can I do to train myself to be better at..."

    That's my goal! Thanks for the great article! 🙂

  47. Julie Glover says:

    This one-word challenge is always so hard for me! I love your choices. Perhaps mine should be PROACTIVE. A lot of great things have been happening with my writing career, but that also means I've gotten busier and feel like I'm always reacting to stuff instead of getting my own goals accomplished. I need to take back the reins and be proactive with my time and priorities.


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