Thursday, January 2, 2020

to word, or not to word?

It’s that time of year--or even that time of decade--when our thoughts may turn to One Little Word. I'm uncertain where the idea of choosing a single word rather than a RESOLUTION originated, but at the Two Writing Teachers blog, Stacy Shubitz described the One Little Word practice thusly in 2011:

"Instead of thinking about a new year’s resolution for 2012, consider thinking about one little word you’ll live by this coming year. Living with one little word as your guide throughout an entire year provides you with more clarity."

So this month the Sunday Poetry Swaggers' challenge is to reflect, in poetry, on the question of whether “to Word” in 2020. Each of us has a different history with OLW and of course various feelings about the usefulness of selecting a word to guide our daily living through the coming year.

It seems my own OLW journey began in 2015. From the beginning, I resisted settling on just one word, immediately revising my first choice, LIGHT, to REVISE, which conveniently left open all kinds of possibilities. 

In 2016 I must have completely forgotten about the whole idea of One Little Word. There is no bloggival evidence that I even THOUGHT of choosing One Little Word.

In 2017 I eschewed a single word for THREE Little Words (always a greedy one, me). They were READY. STEADY. GO. Fancy my paying enough attention to them to return in September, a full 9 months later, to see how the New Year’s Baby had grown!

 In 2018, it would appear, I quietly and deliberately did not choose One Little Word, the unhelpful burden of which I commented on the next year in 2019 when I exchanged OLW for ODT, One Difficult Truth.That choice did me a world of good throughout the year.

So it is perhaps unsurprising that now, with 2020 hindsight, I stop pretending that One Little Word will ever suit my greedy, undisciplined, spatter-focused personality. 


Dear Words, ALL Words, 

I love how you are  
allowing me the latitude 
to utter any attitude. 
I need not stoop to platitudes-- 
your precision’s magnitudinous-- 
and so I’m full of gratitude 
to you, Words, for your plenty. 

I don’t think even twenty 
of you, fifty or a hundred 
could see me through a year, 
could peek at me, speak at me, Latin 
and Greek at me.  Hello?! I’m aglow
with your abundance, portmanteaux
and loanwords, cognates and calques;
at your smorgasbord of choices
my greedy mouth rejoices.

So it does not behoove me--
I don’t think it improves me--
to choose a single one of you to guide 
me through my year. Instead
I choose you all, each of you in your time,
momentary, legendary, literary, prime,
ordinary, necessary, abstract and applied
to all the shades and grades, 
the hints and hues of meaning

to which my heart is leaning,
on which my brain’s caffeining,
by which my soul is stirred.
I even choose all of you words 
my ear has never heard!
To choose just one--One Little Word--
paupers me, stoppers me, is resistibly 
absurd. I announce my renouncement 
of One Little Word. 

draft (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2019

All that being said, you know that I'm continuing to focus my attention on CLIMATE this year, both as the fundamental issue of this decade and as the foundation of my classroom work.  

Meanwhile, I can't wait to see what the Sunday Poetry Swaggers are thinking about their OLWs this year. Do visit each of them to find out.
-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone 

-Linda at A Word Edgewise

Our host for the first round-up of 2020 is Carol at Carol's Corner. I wonder if she has a word in mind?


  1. You crack me up.
    I'm also inspired to write a poem about mine now.

  2. I love this, Heidi, especially "...allowing me the latitude/to utter any attitude." This is a poem only you could write! Well done!

  3. I chose a few when I was blogging with the Two Writing Teachers, but did not continue, love your rejection but then acclamation for all: "each of you in your time" works for me, Heidi. Happy New Year with the best dictionary you can find!

  4. What a wonderful mouthful, Heidi. Your journey and certainly your poem is a credit to your constantly working mind and quick wit. Why not spread the wealth and give magnanimous praise to all words!

  5. Funny! Like you I have found one word a hard thing, but do like the idea of emotions or attitudes to focus on rather than 'goals'.

  6. Heidi- I just snorted coffee through my nose! This is so funny! My sentiments exactly! Several years, because it seemed the thing to do, I actually chose a word, but I don't think I have ever followed through with any of them. Nor could I tell you what any of them were, although they usually have something to do with organization and/or clutter (or lack thereof).

  7. Ha! Your renunciation is noted; no need to limit yourself when words are so very multitudinous! Happy New Year!

  8. Oh, ha! I love the unapologetic tone of your renouncement, the internal rhyme, and the voluminous word choice. I've chosen one word a few times but never really kept up with the good intention. I might be better off following your example!

  9. I love the pure SASS of this post...the poem especially. The ious-ness of your vocabulary and the in-your-face declaration that all will be included in your year. You make me laugh. You make me proud. And, you make me write better! Happy New Year.

  10. Hilarious and so just like you! I choose All the Words! I imagine the caricature that Peter Reynolds would draw.

  11. The wordplay in this poem is dazzling, splendid, venerable. You are a master of All the Words, Heidi.

  12. Your wordplay consistently wows me, Heidi! This is such a rollicking romp of a poem! Brava!

  13. Your poem made me smile. :) I loved all the wordplay and how your poem flowed.

  14. Gratitudes for your pulchritudinous poem Heidi, I'm smiling from it! I like the idea of more than one word, I have a small collection of four I'm considering… Maybe your starting something new…

  15. Nice work on your poem! I had to look up some of the words :) I'm a fan of the one word focus. Multiple words also work :) It's the idea not the number that counts :)

  16. What a wonderful poem , full of delicious words to munch on. I've never done one little word before, but I've been thinking about it. It's great to have tools to inspire us on the path. But I'm not sure I could come up with just one word for the year, either.

  17. Hahaha---this is fabulous, Heidi. And, really, so true. I especially love "each of you in your time." Yes. Happy 2020!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!