Words to live by

Jan 16, 2015 | 6 comments |

Words are my business. Finding the right words to express emotion, and to show conflict and character development, are fundamental to my work as a writer. I also delight in learning new words through reading, and the word of the day from Dictionary.com

In 2014, however, I took my passion for words one step further. I chose a word to focus on for the year. I was inspired by best-selling women’s fiction author Debbie Macomber’s One Perfect Word, an account of words she’s explored over the years, and how this exploration has shaped her life and relationships.

My word for 2014 was believe. After a number of tumultuous years, I needed to believe there would be resolution to a litany of personal and professional crises. To believe I was following the right path with my writing.

Throughout the year, I focused on my word from different perspectives, in family and friendships, in fiction and faith.  

I also focused on making my word tangible. “Believe you can and you are halfway there”, is on the postcard propped on the bookcase next to my writing desk. Many times throughout the year, I reminded myself of that mantra – to believe in a positive outcome, even when things looked dark.

My word for 2015 is goodness. With some unlikely inspiration, this choice solidified for me in the past fortnight .

First, the terrorist attacks in Paris, shocking, tragic and, above all horrific.

Yet, amidst that horror, I’ve been inspired by stories of human goodness, transcending the boundaries of a divided society.

When called upon to do so, ordinary people acted in heroic ways.

And second, I’ve been re-reading some of Louisa May Alcott’s books and short stories. Best known for Little Women, this celebrated nineteenth century American author was also a staunch social reformer and abolitionist, working to combat poverty, promote women’s rights and education, and forge a more equitable society.

In life, Alcott was a heroine as compelling as any of those in her fiction.

So this year I’m seeking to live my life to be consciously mindful of goodness – acknowledging it in the world around me, and finding opportunities to live goodness in my interactions with others.   

Do you choose a word to live by for the year? How has it impacted your life?  

Suggestions for additional reading

Debbie Macomber, One Perfect Word


Inside Higher Ed, University of Venus, “Inspiration for 2015” (1 January 2015)

Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, Louisa May Alcott 


  1. lonestarsky

    I love the idea of choosing a word for the year! This is the third year I’ve done it, this year’s word is AUTHENTIC. I find it so much more flexible than resolutions, as I find I can apply words to so many different areas of my life, and let myself evolve with them rather than be hemmed in with resolutions that I know I won’t keep.

    Great choice of word for 2015, and some interesting stuff about Louisa May Alcott, I’ve read some of her fiction but had no idea she was so prolific for other reasons.

    (@andreaw79 on twitter)

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. Interesting to hear about your word for 2015, and why you focus on a word, instead of resolutions.

      Glad you enjoyed learning more about Louisa May Alcott too. I loved her books as child/young teenager, but recognise so much more in them as an adult, knowing more about her as a woman, and a writer.

      Wishing you a year of reflection and growth as you focus on AUTHENTIC.

  2. Sue Bavin

    What a fascinating concept. I’ve never come across it before. It must give you a positive outlook. Guess what – I was looking at Little Women just the other day. Great minds, Jen!

    I liked Lonestarsky’s comment about how a word can apply to all areas of your life – much more meaningful than a resolution.

    I will give some thought to my own word of the year. Thanks, Jen.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks to you, Sue. I’m so glad my blog gave you food for thought. Yes, choosing a word for the year helps to give me a positive outlook – and conscious focus throughout the year.

      How lovely we were looking at the same book! I have my grandmother’s copy of ‘Little Women’ and cherish it for that reason too.

      Happy reflecting on your word for 2015. xx

  3. Nicola

    I am a great fan of Debbie Macomber, Jen. I will have to take a look at the book you have highlighted. I don’t really have a word that I embrace but I have a letter. My favourite letter for 2015 is “P”. There are so many great words beginning with “P”: perseverence, proactive, positive, prayer, persistence, peace, patience ….. the list is endless. Naturally, I focus on the up-lifting “p” words. Wishing you a great week ahead. All the best.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Nicola. Good to meet someone else who enjoys Debbie Macomber’s books. “One Perfect Word” inspired me in so many ways, not least because she shared aspects of her life, and writing journey.

      I’m intrigued by the idea of a letter for the year, and you’ve given me much to think about.

      Wishing you an uplifting year as you focus on those wonderful “p” words, many of which are close to my heart too.



  1. Jen Gilroy » Goodness, a word for our time - […] word for 2015 is goodness. As those of you who read my blog regularly know, it’s been a year…
  2. Jen Gilroy » Life lessons in ABC - […] was my word for the year in 2014, but it’s only in 2016 I’ve come to truly appreciate its powerful…
  3. Jen Gilroy » A year to cultivate - […] chosen a ‘word for the year’ since 2014 (read more here), and because I don’t usually make resolutions (and…

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