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My Word of the Year 1.0*

*This post is My Word of the Year 1.0 because there is something else in the pipeline about it and I will have a 2.0 to post soon!

Have you picked a Word for the Year? Are you trying to pick one? I've talked to several friends, who are still deciding on theirs. And hey, it's still early, so you have time!

I've been choosing, and trying to live by, a Word of the Year for the past several years. This is a very meaningful self-development exercise for me. It helps me stay focused on what's important to me.

I'm a life-long learner. So, it makes sense that I would use my Word of the Year as a foundation for learning throughout the coming year. For me, learning means being open. It means exploring and questioning. It means not just accepting the status quo or the way things "have always been." My art/creative practice is part of this. My art journal is a place where I give myself permission to "not know," to play around, and to learn. My creative practice gives me the experience of being intentional and focused as I'm learning, and this translates into how I "practice" life and learn about myself beyond my art journal.

My word of the year for 2019 was "Gratefulness" because I had finally fully recovered from my tongue cancer surgery (in 2018). I'd had so many wonderful care-providers and positive outcomes that I was, quite simply, full of gratitude. I wanted to keep that feeling going into the coming year...and beyond.

In 2020 it was "Grace" because that feeling of gratitude needed a little propping up as ordinary life (COVID!!) and some emotional and personal challenges presented themselves. For me, "grace" is handling anything that comes your way with loving kindness (for oneself and others), courage, respectfulness, and gratitude.

For 2021, it was "Intention." I had just read Dr. Shauna Shapiro's book "Good Morning, I Love You," and her approach to mindfulness really resonated with me. I'm such a perfectionist...well, now I can say I'm a "recovering" perfectionist ;)...that it just felt right to me when I read: "Perfection isn't possible, but progress is." For me, "intention" meant that I am not just on autopilot for anything in my life. I'm paying attention, present in the moment, I'm actively creating my life, and I'm being kind to myself in the process.

And so, without further ado, I reveal my 2022 Word of the Year: Discernment.

For me, "discernment" is a continuation of what has come before. It's about taking "Gratefulness," "Grace" and "Intention" into the future with me as I make a new effort to go beyond the mere perception of things and make nuanced judgments about their properties or qualities. "Discernment," for me, is about adding intention to the process of perception so that it is not overly influenced by assumptions and pre-conceived ideas or biases. And it is using values like humility, generosity, and truth, as well as my awareness and intuition, to assist in making rational observations and informed choices. It's about linking the head, the heart, and the spirit in a wholistic way to make these choices and take action...hopefully, "right action." Our life is all about the choices we make, and I am asking "Discernment" to inform mine.

As a reminder, I've created this little "book" out of up-cycled clothing tags as a mediation on my word, that I can refer to this year. I've included words (there are many more, but I selected several that I think are important ;) that define what "Discernment" means to me. This was such a fun project, and I felt really grounded in my decision to choose this word.

In order to add the "words" to my tags, I first created the words with a letter stencil. This was a meditation on my Word of the Year, as well as each of the other words, as I was stenciling each letter in each word. The stenciled words were a lovely meditation, but they were not the right size for my little tags! So, I scanned the words to my computer, adjusted the size of the jpegs, and then printed them out. I fussy cut the words and collaged them into my arty "pages."

Creating ephemera using black paint, white paper, and stencils and then scanning to get smaller versions that I can use in my art is another way I put my stencils into action! It is another step, and takes some fiddling on the computer to get the images to the size you want, but I think the pay-off is well worth it! And it's another way that stencils can be so versatile!

Here's a video showing you, step by step how I made my up-cycled tag book:

I've been creating my own art papers and ephemera for as long as I've been art journaling (since 2007). Making my own art to use in my art is a fun process that really puts me into the moment while I'm creating it. Then, I get to revisit my creations as I use them in my art. I do this in my Fodder School class, coming up in April.

(P.S. you can still enroll! Click here: I CAN'T WAIT FOR APRIL!)





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Chris Karpiak
Chris Karpiak
Jan 18, 2022

Sarah, thank you for sharing how you process your world and how you see it. Having a word of the year really helps to keep oneself encouraged and reinforced. I am indebted to you for encouraging me to choose a word this year! It’s made such a difference!

Chris Karpiak
Chris Karpiak
Jan 19, 2022
Replying to

Looking forward to it! You make a difference to me, girlfriend!

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