2015: A Year of Exploring?

Last year, I half-heartedly committed to focusing my efforts on one little word.


When I selected the word, I wrote that it was “about challenging myself, breaking out of my comfort zone, and immersing myself in experiences…Instead of staring at an obstacle and backtracking, it will mean finding a new route. It means breaking new ground and finding untapped reserves.”

I’m honestly not sure if I achieved that, but I think it’s partially because I didn’t commit to the One Little Word concept as much as I could have. I’m participating in the community/workshop aspect as well this year and I’m hoping I get more out of it.

I will say that I feel like I challenged myself this year, and more often than not I rose to meet those challenges head-on. I learned about the value of having a buddy system, a writing tribe, and collaborating with others. My exploration was less personal than I thought it would be, and more about expanding my relationships and letting other people in to help me navigate those new routes.

I had some lofty reading and writing goals, too.

I more than achieved my writing goals with NaNoWriMo: I let my characters breathe, and I gave up on such tight, controlled narrative outlines. I also wanted to find my voice, and not manufacture it. I know I’m on my way, and it’s come across in some of my more successful 1:1000 pieces and personal feedback I’ve gotten about my writing/blogging.

My reading goals were surprisingly unfulfilled. I haven’t run my numbers yet, but I don’t think I’ll be anywhere close to reading more diversely and exploring new genres and perspectives. If anything, I read comparatively little (I just hit my 50 book goal last night!) and mostly within my comfort zone.

I’m not sure what 2016 will bring, but I look forward to it. I may not have achieved every thing I wanted in 2015, but I’m ending the year happier, healthier, and more self-aware than I started.

How was your year? Did you participate in One Little Word?

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explore | marginalia

I’ve talked about diverse books a lot on the blog, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that diversity in reading ties back to my “explore” theme for the year. Exploring other cultures, perspectives, and identities through books? That’s a no-brainer for me.

I decided that I would take a look at my 2014 reading habits to see how I could challenge myself in 2015. I figured that 50% “outside myself” would be reasonable, because obviously I really care about diversity in reading, and I’m already reading a lot of diverse authors and books with diverse characters.

Except…my numbers don’t reinforce that.

Sure, I may have read a lot of books in which supporting characters were people of color, non able-bodied, or gay or lesbian, but I didn’t read many in which a main character presented a life terribly different from my own. There were a lot of white hetero characters with white hetero problems. Oh, and regardless, a lot of the books were penned by white folks. My author diversity stats ended up being around 8%. As in, 8% of the books I read were by an author who wasn’t white. I thought I’d hit 20-25%, but I was way, way off. It just goes to show that even with awareness, you still have to seek out “diverse” books and actively engage in the discovery process. My goal for this year is 25%; with a lot of the “looking to 2015” publishing posts that came out earlier this month, I’ve curated quite the future TBR pile. It’s a balance of different authors and genres.

I’m also experimenting with different types of books – more memoirs, essays, short stories, and maybe even some poetry. I’ve been solidly in the “novel” or “rousing non-fiction” camp for years, and I’d like to extend those boundaries.

What are you reading this year? 

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explore | manuscripts

With explore guiding me this year, I’m excited about writing a lot in 2015.

I’m challenging myself to be more focused on atmosphere and immersion than plot points. I won’t outline every moment, chart every interaction. I’ll give the characters room – real room – to grow. Maybe they will become bigger than I anticipated. Maybe their relationships will expand beyond the confines of my own limitations. I hope so. The lack of flexibility, of slack in the line, creates burnout. It isn’t fun. It isn’t good. I’m just a chauffeur, and I’m around to deviate.

The explore part of writing is giving up the meticulous plotting, but it’s also giving up my comfort zone. I’m changing up the setting and time period of my current manuscript, and it requires significantly more research and imagination. It’s daunting, but the pictures inside my head are more vivid than they’ve been in years. They have to be.

I’m also trying new techniques and approaches, allowing different genres and styles to ebb and flow within pieces. It’s weird, but I’ve fought for so long to cultivate a voice that it feels processed, disingenuous. I’m manufacturing me, or what I think I should sound like. My favorite 1:1000 pieces last year were the ones in which I didn’t try so dang hard, when I let the words take me to the story. I hope I’ll have more moments like that this year.

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One Little Word for 2015

This is the first year I will attempt to live with one word in mind.


Okay, fine, the first year in which I will attempt Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project, in which I select one word to help guide me throughout the year. Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness has a wonderful post up today about her 2014 word (“curate” – such a great choice!) and how it lead to her pick for 2015.

As usual, I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m up for the challenge.

(Aside: will “I have no idea what I’m doing” be the tagline for my twenties?)

One thing I’ve struggled with in my writing is a clear, concise voice. I have a tendency to be verbose at the worst times. Choosing one word to “focus on, meditate on, and reflect on” for the year seems like a way to keep my bad habits in check and to reinforce the concept of an “economy of words.”

(Another aside: I really should’ve added this RDJ gif in after I drafted my blog post. Super distracting.)

After a lot of thought, I decided my 2015 word will be…


This is a year of new opportunities and challenges, and I’m choosing to meet them with renewed excitement and promise. After a year that sometimes felt like I was stuck with a perpetually-running “womp womp” soundtrack playing in the background, I’m ready for 2015.

For me, explore is about challenging myself, breaking out of my comfort zone, and immersing myself in experiences. It’s about embracing new experiences, perspectives, and philosophies. Instead of staring at an obstacle and backtracking, it will mean finding a new route. It means breaking new ground and finding untapped reserves.

An artist is an explorer. He has to begin by self-discovery and by observation of his own procedures. After that he must not feel under any constraint. — Henri Matisse

What’s your word for 2015? How can we support each other this year? 

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