January 9, 2018 · By Vocab Girl Leave Comment
A Year Of A Word-A-Day (or a word-a-day for a year)
I set off on a mission in 2017 with a new URL and a new name and a new quest to find meaning. I was feeling lost + I love vocabulary words = it seemed like the dictionary was a decent place to start to look up the answers. I had no idea where I was headed, so I checked the most popular dictionary daily words and I settled on Merriam-Webster’s. I had visions of learning latin roots, boning up on some trivia and sharpening my spelling skills. As I really should have known, reality didn’t entirely match the image in my head. As per usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I bit off a bit more than I could chew. The words were obscure, slightly irrelevant, though often strangely prophetic. I started off filled with hope and idealism, but slowly descended into frustration and self-doubt, which morphed into self-criticism and loathing. Concurrently, I joined a “words” coaching group. We all chose words to theme our year. I settled on “Resolve.” To me, this meant that I had to hold tightly to the things I set out to do and not abandon them when the going got too rough. I had to be tougher and keep at it….yet I kept getting the message that nothing was worth my peace of mind, so I had to release myself from the challenge and take a break. I also had started spinning too many simultaneous plates…I had been pairing my own images with the words (which was sometimes impossibly difficult to stage and select – how do you capture adjectives and gestures and moods?) My Mom had started Synonym doing a Bird A Day – which then became an added venue for me to continue to cultivate her incredible thirst for knowledge – but again was another daily creation that I had to orchestrate. I burnt out. I stepped away. I got more and more frustrated still because I didn’t know how to pick it back up again. I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over again and that I was talking to myself, and the common theme was that no one really knew what the origins of the words really actually were. This was disheartening. I wanted answers and results! What I came to see was that no one really knows what they are saying. We use dead words and I wonder what percentage of our conversations fly over the heads of those we are conversing with. Homonym didn’t quite understand me and my process. Why these words? Why don’t you pick your own? Why do you HAVE to do this?
I received countless spammy messages that content for my site could be provided for $1 an article. ??!! Really? I am the writer responsible for my own content. You are barking up the wrong tree! And even mores, how can you make a profit charging that?!
I would check the Word of the Day in my Merriam-Webster App as soon after midnight as I happened to be awake and kick off my pondering. If I was an easy one, my vision for the image I would create was ready to be searched for or created. The wording would take me longer. It wasn’t something I could just crank out quickly and be finished. It often took me until it was time for bed at 10:30 or 11 pm to get it finalized and posted. Some days that was burning my midnight oil and wearing me out. Who said I “HAD” to do it a certain way? No one but me. I wasn’t getting paid. I didn’t figure out how to monetize this. I am sure if someone was paying me, it would have taken on an even different life of its own. I censored myself, but then I would have had another set of edits to fit into someone else box of requirements and then the joy would be even more removed. I am nothing if I am not a woman of my word. HAHA! I set out by giving myself this assignment and I had to finish it, or I would be a failure and a fraud. So after the summer ended, I branched out and added a Twitter account, in the hopes of picking up more followers – not so much. I still have days when I barely reach 5 people. But I have to do it for me. Not for the world. This is a tough lesson to learn when you harbor dreams of going viral.
I finished out the year with 228/365 words posted. I panicked when I realized that was only 62% and I thought that wasn’t considered a passing grade. I may have worked for free, but I did it for myself. I sharpened my skills on my own. As a writer, I was always afraid to run out of ideas or words to say. I have seen that it is not possible. Some words and some days just didn’t do it for me, while others struck chords that opened the flood gates. Some days I felt like I was phoning it in, as I hummed Matchbox 20’s “Bent” and pressed Post. Other days I felt like I was rocking it.
So what did I learn? I learned that very little is certain. As the years go by and the words we use spread across cultures and get adopted into other languages, the exact points of origin become less and less known. Some meanings are pretty universal, while others are more specific. The one universal truth that remains is that we all seek ways to put our experiences into words and convey them to others…as a cautionary tale to avoid, or as an exemplary standard to emulate. We seek to rationalize and justify and prove we aren’t alone or crazy. We want to share our joys and halve our sorrows. To associate and disassociate. The dictionary of my own life has definitely grown this year.
Going forward I am going to explore topics of my own choosing at my own pace so I don’t feel the daily pressure to produce. Here’s to the next chapter. My 2018 word is going to be IGNITE! It was gifted to me by a very special mentor and friend. I have big plans to make her proud. I hope you will stay tuned and help me stoke the flames.