What Was the Word?

This year my word has been “EXPERIMENT!” Yes, in all caps and with an exclamation point! The emphasis is not angry or scolding, but cheering. To me it is encouragement to try things I haven’t tried before, without expectation of a particular outcome.

Why is that important? If I expect a particular outcome or product, and then my actions don’t produce that, there can be a sense of failure attached. Instead, my hope was to be more open to possibilities. I can try something for several iterations, varying aspects until I figure out what really works, or until I’ve learned all I need to from the process. The goal of an experiment is to learn, and success is in the learning, not in the product or outcome.

This word worked well for me, for both my quilting/creative life and the rest of my personal life. I am bolder now and more persistent in some creative areas. I worked in series in my quilts and continue to find new means of expression in the same form.

I began the year completing medallions started for my Medallion Sew-Along. Last year I started nine quilts for the series of posts. So far I have finished eight of them. Six of those nine all began with the same template, or sizes for the center block and borders. Though the template was the same, the variation between the compositions was remarkable. In essence, the whole Sew-Along was an experiment for me. Here are two of my favorite finishes from it.

sparkle 1 African star 1

In the spring I began teaching a class on my medallion Design-As-You-Go methods. The five students were all talented, experienced quilters. Their creativity, enthusiasm, and generosity made the class a tremendous success. I hope to teach it again. Though I will do some things differently, the first go-round was a worthy experiment.

Besides my quilting, writing is an important creative endeavor for me. In July my experiment was to submit a short story for publication to a magazine. The editor-in-chief replied to me that very day! She said she loved the story, but the magazine was about to cease publication. She encouraged me to submit it elsewhere. So far I have not, but mostly because I haven’t identified another potential publisher yet. The quilting magazines with which I’m familiar don’t publish short stories, and I’ll need to look for another venue.

In addition, I submitted another work for publication. In this case I sent in a proposal for a book. The publisher declined, but again encouraged me to submit elsewhere. I’m still mulling my options here.

Besides quilting and writing, I’ve been experimenting in my personal life. I tried out a new attitude for winter in January and February (though it rather fell apart in March…) I’ll try it again this year. And Jim and I tried snowshoeing for the first time. We enjoyed it enough to buy ‘shoes, hoping to spend more time outside even in winter.

In September we went to northern New Mexico to vacation. We hike when we can here in Iowa, but we enjoy a challenge and were eager to try the higher elevations. Taos, NM is at about 7,000 feet above sea level. Just walking around in town is some 6,000 feet above our local elevation! But we also hiked in the mountains, including a wonderful outing above 11,000 feet. That’s more than two miles above sea level! That hike was a triumph especially because an earlier one at a lower elevation had led to significant pain in my knees. Persistence paid off.

Using “EXPERIMENT!” as a focus word helped encourage me to try things, and to try again.

I’ve thought a lot about my word for 2015. I expected I’d change it, probably to “explore.” However, I’ve gained so much by experimenting that I will continue with this year’s word.

Did you have a focus word for 2014? Was it helpful to you? Will you choose one for 2015? I’d love to hear about it. 

15 thoughts on “What Was the Word?

  1. Pingback: A word or two for the New Year |

  2. Thread crazy

    This year my “word” could best be describes as completion! While I had thought it would be to learn and experiment more, instead it’s been a year of completion. For next year I have a couple of things already laid out to do; working with new fabrics, mediums and patterns. Lets hope we all accomplish at least a part of what we have set as our 2015 goals!!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Maybe you didn’t experiment, but perhaps you were clearing the decks so you can do that next year. I see next year as one that could change things a lot for me. We’ll see… 🙂

  3. Nann Hilyard

    Your experiments were successful! I have enjoyed following your posts this year. I have never chosen a focus word. I think I fear that doing so will constrain me rather than encourage me.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It’s a reasonable concern! For me it worked, but it wouldn’t work for everyone, just as resolutions don’t.

      Thanks for following. I really appreciate it and am always glad to see you.

  4. KerryCan

    What a year you’ve had! So productive and I love that you took chances and challenged yourself in many different parts of your life! I’m inspired to think about a word for 2015 . . . but I don’t know if I’ve left myself enough time to settle on one–it seems kind of daunting. For you, I think experiment and explore can work together beautifully!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      If you have it in your mind, your word may choose you, probably while you are dipping chocolates! I don’t think you need to worry about it.

      Yeah, it’s been a heckuva year, better than the last, and WAY better than the one before. Still it had its challenges and I won’t be sorry to be done with it. Each has its own character, doesn’t it?

  5. snarkyquilter

    I totally agree with your medallion quilt favorites choices. While I don’t choose one word to guide my aspirations, I do formulate broad directions in which I’d like to take my work. For 2014, it’s been to think more before sewing. I’ve become part of a small art quilt critique group and it’s been bracing to get dispassionate feedback on my work in progress. This is forcing me to consider design and composition more. For 2015, I think I’ll attempt a slow quilting approach.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      One thing I’ve enjoyed about this year is I’ve spent much more time learning about and applying design principles, in a more deliberate way, than ever before. I understand color and value better than I ever did, just for starters, but unity, balance, proportion, et al… I see them now in ways I never did before. I actually think this will allow me to work faster at times. But I do enjoy mulling over options, and that will still happen. Thanks for taking a look.

  6. allisonreidnem

    I’ve never had a focus word and I gave up making new years resolutions a long time ago! However, the words that come instantly to mind for me for 2015 are ‘finish’ and ‘learn’. The first to finally get through all the quilt tops I’ve been too afraid to ‘experiment’ on and the second to take time out from making-to-sell to learn new techniques! Thanks for helping me to clarify my thoughts by sharing yours!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      New years resolutions never worked for me, either. They seem to be very action-oriented. For me, I needed to change mostly how I think about things, and then the action will follow. I think that’s why this one worked so well. Thanks for stopping by today.

  7. pamelajeannestudio

    I love the cheery colors in the first quilt. I’ve enjoyed seeing all your medallion quilts. My focus word for 2014 was organize. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen! I’ll have to carry it over to 2015.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      “Organize” might take a different kind of thinking than some focus words. For me, I can carry my word through the present, all the time. I don’t need to think much about the future. But for yours, you maybe need to be able to envision the organized future, and know what that looks like, to move in that direction. Just a thought…


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