Reflections on 2018 and My Keyword for 2019

The end of December and beginning of January is a thoughtful time of year for me. I think back on the previous year, the highlights and achievements, the setbacks and lessons learned. Then I turn to the year that’s beginning to unfold. I ask myself, “What can I accomplish by the end of the year? What do I want to do? How can I continue to embrace the projects and ideals that matter most to me?”

This year, I’m taking that goal-setting to a new level by trying a New Year’s ritual that my friend Leanne Sowul practices. Every January, she chooses a word to guide her decisions, intentions, and actions for the next 12 months. In that way, it becomes a sort of theme for her year. And knowing what I’ll be up to in the near future, I’ve chosen my own word to be my touchstone for 2019.

Before I share that word, let’s put 2018 into perspective.

The Challenging Yet Amazing Year That Was 2018

In some ways, 2018 was a trying year. I lost the vision and passion for my YA magical realism manuscript, and subsequently burnt out on it. I continued to struggle with anxiety attacks (though, thankfully, I’m managing my thoughts more effectively now). In April, the father of one of my best friends suddenly passed away. And… well, there was one more challenge, one I haven’t discussed online. The timing hasn’t been right, and it still isn’t at the moment. But when it is, I promise I’ll share that story here.

But in other, more positive ways, 2018 was an INCREDIBLE year. How so? Let me share them with you:

  • I continued writing, revising, and submitting poetry to literary journals… and five of those poems (my first acceptances since returning to poetry in 2017) have been published!
  • I attended the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in May, and fell in love with the city of Salem while I was there.
  • Alison Walsh’s A Literary Tea Party, the bookish tea party cookbook I wrote the introduction for, was published in June. And in December, it received enough votes to place 4th in the Best Food & Cook Books category for the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards!!
  • I met some incredible poets (especially Jenny Xie) and two of my favorite authors (V.E. Schwab and Nova Ren Suma) at various events.
  • I started reading my poems at local open mic nights again, and I’m having SO MUCH FUN with them!
  • Apart from writing, I went to some lovely tea tastings and get-togethers with friends, visited the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History for the first time, and spent some therapeutic, invaluable time outdoors.
  • I met my goal of donating money to a different charity each month that focused on writing and the arts or nature and wildlife conservation. (Well, I missed one month, but 11 out of 12 is still good, right?)

And what about blogging? Oh, there are quite a few posts I wrote this year that I’m proud of. Here are a few of them:

You know what else has made the past few months amazing? The Big Secret Project. 😉 Oh, yes. That wonderfully cryptic thing I keep hinting at here and there. It’s kept me super-busy since the middle of September – busy enough that it’s forced me to cut down on the amount of time I spend reading friends’ blogs and replying to comments. (Sorry about that, by the way…) But it’s been worth it. And once all the important pieces have fallen into place, which should be fairly soon, I’ll have a big announcement to share with you.

A quote I’m planning to help define my 2019

My Keyword for 2019 Is…

So what word have I chosen to guide me through 2019? Given what I’m working on right now and what I hope to accomplish, the word came to me quickly.


Part of why I chose “empower” falls into the realm of “things I can’t share yet,” so I apologize if this sounds vague… But there were times in 2018 where, in certain areas outside of writing, I had to accept terms or deal with situations that were not at all to my advantage. As a result, I often felt not only stressed and anxious, but also angry, devalued, and – to be perfectly honest – powerless.

So in 2019, I’m going to reclaim as much of that power as I can. I’m working on what I hope will be the best solution for what happened. I’ll make choices based on my priorities and values, and I won’t settle for anything less. It will require bravery – more bravery, in fact, that traveling to New York City or Iceland by myself. It will also mean rocking the proverbial boat, which is something this nonconfrontational person (*points to herself*) tries to avoid. But I know I deserve better than the hand I was dealt… and I’m ready to buck the system if it means putting my happiness first.

I also chose a theme song for 2019 that fits my hopes and plans. Thank you for writing this, Josh Groban. ❤

Goals that Align with “Empower”

Some of these goals and activities won’t be a surprise, since they’re continuations of things I’ve already been doing. But they, along with the new goals and activities, are very much a part of how I plan to empower myself this year.

Launch and Focus on the Big Secret Project: This will make more sense once the project is made public. But once it’s launched, it will become my primary focus creatively and professionally for 2019.

Continue Writing for DIY MFA: This might be difficult because of the demands that the Big Secret Project will require from me. But it’s also more important than ever that I stick with DIY MFA. So I’ve planned my posts for 2019 with the web editor’s help, and I’ve already written my first two articles for the year. The longer I can stay ahead before things get super-busy, the better off I’ll be with meeting my deadlines.

Continue Working on Poetry: I’ll probably have less time for submitting poetry than I did in 2018. But as long as I squeeze time in nurture new ideas and continue developing my style of poetry-writing, I’ll be happy with that.

Attend the 2019 Iceland Writers Retreat: April 3rd can’t come soon enough!! I’m also going to meet one of my blogging friends, Victoria Howell, during this year’s trip, so I’m excited about that, too

Attend Other Literary Conferences and Related Events: Since the next Massachusetts Poetry Festival is on hold, I’m looking to other literary events in and outside my local area this year. One possibility? After reading this AMAAAAZING announcement, someone might be going back to Writer’s Digest Conference this year. 😉

Say “Yes” to the Right Opportunities: You know the saying “resting on your laurels”? I can’t do that if I want the Big Secret Project to succeed. This year, I’ll need to keep my eyes and ears open so I don’t miss the right doors of opportunity. I’ll need to have faith in my ability to act on my dreams and to put myself out there in ways I’m not used to (networking, using social media more often and in the right way, etc.). I might even need to do things that scare me a little. But if I truly believe that something would be to my benefit, or if I’d crazy not to say “yes,” then I’m going to take a deep breath and jump for it.

Prioritize Self-Care: Pulling all-nighters for days on end doesn’t work for me. Instead, I’ll focus on getting enough sleep, eating well, doing yoga, meditating, and using aromatherapy / essential oils. They’ve all proven crucial to my overall health and well-being over the past couple years, and they might be even more important for me this year.

Continue Donating Money to Meaningful Causes: This goal made me feel so good last year that I see no reason to stop it. So every month, I’ll donate money to a cause that focuses on one of two areas I cherish deeply: literature and the arts (PEN America, Academy of American Poets, Grub Street, etc.), and nature and wildlife conservation (World Wildlife Fund, Mass Audobon, Ocean Conservancy, etc.).

“Redesign” This Blog: This will be a low-priority goal because of… well, see all of the above. (*lol*) But as much as I love the look and feel of this site, I’d really like to simplify it. Fewer pages, a shorter bio, a few other modifications – nothing major, I think. So don’t be surprised if you notice any changes as the year goes on.

A Quick Note About the Blog’s Activity in 2019

As 2019 goes along, it’s possible that I’ll have to slow down my blogging schedule again. I don’t want to say it will stop completely. Right now it’s difficult to gauge how much time or energy I’ll have for it once things get moving. It could simply mean more time between blog posts (and fewer blog posts as well) or another shift in direction. But until I know for sure, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll continue to visit! Your support, enthusiasm, and friendship have always meant the world to me, and that won’t ever change. Plus, several posts for 2019 are already in the queue, so we’ll have plenty of chances to talk about books, writing, inspiration, and much more in the coming weeks.

I’m ready to make 2019 a year to remember, for all the right reasons. How about you?

What are some of your goals for 2019? Do you have a keyword to guide your choices and actions for the coming year? What one thing about 2018 do you want to do differently this year, and how do you plan to accomplish this?

32 thoughts on “Reflections on 2018 and My Keyword for 2019

  1. That is a powerful word to let guide your life during the year, Sara! Wish you all the best. By ‘returning to poetry’, do you mean that you have changed your genre from fantasy fiction for YA to poetry? A very happy new year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Zephyr! 🙂 All the best to you in 2019 as well!

      Regarding the switch in writing focus from fiction / YA fantasy back to poetry: I haven’t closed the door on fiction writing. It’s just not the right time for it. Especially since the inspiration and effort on the poetry side has been paying off, both in terms of publication credits and personal fulfillment. I do have a couple story ideas, but they’re probably better suited for adult fantasy. But like I said, with everything else that’s going on, fiction writing isn’t a high priority at the moment. Hope that explains things a little bit!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m certainly getting more curious about the big secret project! 😁

    I think empower is a wonderful word for this year, it fits well with the things you’re choosing to aim for. Self care is so important, as is rocking the boat sometimes. I’m certainly a rock the boat kind of person (have been in trouble more than once for constantly disagreeing with teachers etc) but I’ve learned that sometimes walking your own path even if that’s against the metaphorical tide, can be the best choice you can make. And even if it doesn’t work out, you always learn something. 🙂

    I think the biggest lesson I’m taking from 2018 is to really think through my choices, in all areas. Slow down my mind a little, stop and breathe, and make conscious choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hee hee. 😁 But like I mentioned to Tammy, I might have to wait until February to launch the Big Secret Project. It depends on how much gets done over the next couple weeks.

      See, that’s the thing about rocking the boat that I’m not used to. I grew up being a people pleaser, so it’s still hard for me sometimes to do or say something that’s true to me but is bound to upset someone else who’s close to me. But a lot of the things I’ve done over the past few years have helped me practice letting go of that fear. I’m getting there, slowly – but this year could be a big jump!

      That’s a very important lesson to take away from your 2018. Make sure you practice it whenever the opportunity arises this year. You’ll see a real difference over time if you do. 😉 All the best to you in 2019, V.P.!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m looking forward to February! 😀

        I’m sure you will get there. 🙂 Being a people pleaser is a side of me, but I’m only that way with people who are really close to me. It’s hard sometimes to rock the boat, but sometimes must be done.

        I am certainly trying! Hope you have a good 2019 too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Best of luck with your goals and I hope 2019 will be a lot better than 2018.
    I also apply one-word goals to my year to help focus what I do. It’s something I started doing a couple years ago after a very trying period. I usually spend all of New Year’s morning writing one long journal entry in which I reflect on the entire year and at the end I’m usually left with my word for the new year.
    It’s weird, but I didn’t do that this year — the long journal entry. I was tired. But my word for this year is Movement. It doesn’t have a ring to it, but this year is about making the moves necessary to achieve the 3 large goals I’m working toward this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😁 I’m hoping it will be ready to launch in February. Was originally hoping for the end of this month, but that might not be doable. For something as significant as this project, it’s better to take the time to do things right than rush to put it out there.

      Thanks for stopping by, btw! Sorry I haven’t been to your blog in a few weeks. Things have been… well, busy, to say the least.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy New Year, Sara!!
    Well, you seem to have everythign covered, which I think is very good at the beginning of the year. It’s good to have direction and purpose, I mean, because that will help us keep our feet once life starts to happen as she always does.
    Congratulation for the things you achieved in 2018 (and it isn’t a small amount!) and best of luck for the projects (especially the Big One 😉 ) for the new year.
    I’ll be around 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this post, Sarah. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about a lot of my plans this year, but this has helped to put a lot of things in perspective for me.
    So thank you again once again, and I wish you all the best with your goals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lola, when I first read your comment, I thought your photo looked familiar but I wasn’t sure where I’d seen it… And then yesterday I was reading the Iceland Writers Retreat blog and remembered. Congratulations on winning one of the Alumni Award scholarships! 🙂 I look forward to meeting you in April, and best of luck with whatever plans and hopes you have for this year!


  6. I’m so excited to see you in three months! These are some great goals! I really get about feeling powerless in a situation. It’s one of the worst feelings. Empower is a great word for the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Can’t wait to hear about the big project! I hope this new year will be one of much empowerment for you.
    I’ve been noticing more and more people choosing a word to represent their new year. I think it’s a cool idea, and a great way to stay focused on something for 12 months.

    I’ll be writing up my 2018 reflections and new year goals post soon, but I think 2018 for me was a lot about getting myself out of my shell or comfort zone. Is there one word that could summarize that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • My first thought was “experiment”? But I’m not sure how well that word works here. Maybe “open,” “adaptable,” or “flexible”? It might even be a good idea to draft the post and see if a word comes to you during that process. (Or maybe you’ve already written and posted that article by now… Sorry. I’ve been a bit behind on comments lately. *blushes*)

      Thank you for your other comments, btw. 🙂 Best wishes for a happy and fruitful 2019 to you too, E.!


  8. Pingback: Thank You, Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019) | Sara Letourneau

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