A Word For The Year: 2023 Edition
Merry post-Christmas, everyone! How was it? How did it treat you? What did you eat? What did you make of Glass Onion? Tell me everything! Mine was lovely, thanks. Pretty low-key, but I sort of wanted a low-key one after I spent last Christmas carrying furniture up and down three flights of stairs and then cleaning an empty flat for two weeks. A cosy one was just what I needed. And I thought Glass Onion was great. So, so fun. Anyway!
In this newsletter last year, I told you all about the “Word for the Year” initiative, which I learned from Miranda and her family (no idea where they got it from – do any of you do it?) (Also, by the by, re-reading that old newsletter has led me to the embarrassing discovery that I had already impersonated a nutcracker last year, meaning this sketch I made last week, rather than being something I bashed out on a spur-of-the-moment basis as I thought, was in fact an idea I’d clearly filed away at the back of my head for a full year, which is more embarrassing, I think. I guess some ideas just won’t leave you alone until they’ve found their way out, or something? I dunno).
Anyway, it’s time for Word of the Year again! For those who’ve joined the Therapy Tapes since last December, or those who can’t be bothered to click on the link above to re-read last year’s entry, Word of the Year sort of replaces New Year’s Resolutions with something less specific and therefore less guilt-inducing. It pushes your thinking in a certain direction to help you to take the actions you want to take and fulfil the goals you want to fulfil, without getting bogged down in paralysing specifics. Whenever you’re trying to make a choice or find a direction, your word for the year, along with whatever implications or associations it has for you, can anchor you to the values and ideas you want to prioritise that year. My word in 2021 was Appreciate – a year for becoming less intensely focused on doing and getting better at being – and my word for 2022 was Dedicate. My intention in choosing Dedicate was to orient myself back towards being active and productive, but taking more care and pride in the things I did – dedicating myself to a limited number of projects – so that I filled my year with a few big things I could be immensely proud of rather than a huge number of smaller things that kept me busy.
I’m delighted to read back last year’s newsletter and realise how well I managed to live by that word this year. Largely, I applied the word to my work, as is my habit (I tried to apply it to other areas of my life as well, but I try my best to broadly maintain a focus on work and creativity in this newsletter and needn’t bore you all with too much very personal stuff), but in the area of work that approach seemed to really produce results. This was the first year of my life in which I undertook, and completed, not one but three major projects with the backing of proper organisations or institutions rather than their simply being smaller, self-produced projects. I made a live show with the help of Arts Council England, Soho Theatre and the Pleasance; a podcast with the help of Aurra Studios; and a sitcom with the help of BBC Radio 4. Any one of these projects could feasibly have been something I tried to rush out by myself in order to get the quick hit of fast results, but with all of them I tried to believe in it enough to go to other people and ask for their support and guidance and help, and let those projects benefit from the minds and input of other people. All three achieved a decent measure of success in a result – I won’t catalogue what those were, because I no longer believe in end-of-year retrospective posts that rake over endless details and specifics as measures of achievement, but with each one I look at it and feel like it achieved the creative goals I set for it and ended up being something I feel objectively proud of. In last year’s newsletter I said that part of why I chose “Dedicate” was because at that point I could only identify two pieces of work that I objectively felt were the best thing I could’ve made at the time and that I hadn’t in some way compromised on. This year, I feel like I can increase that number by 3! Perhaps if I had chosen a different word, that wouldn’t have ended up being the case. Who knows?
Nice skeleton tree on Hampstead Heath on Boxing Day
My word for 2023 is “Change.” Maybe that seems like an odd one at first glance, I don’t know. If 2022 was a year I’m proud of and feel like I achieved stuff in, then why focus on changing things? Why not do more of the same? Well, this year was a year I’m proud of, but as I came into the final few months of it, I had the overwhelming sense that it represented the end of a very long cycle, possibly as long as ten years. Coming out of the Edinburgh Fringe, I was enormously proud of everything I’d achieved, but I also found myself thinking “I know how to do this now. It’s in the process of turning from something I do into something I have done. And that means maybe I don’t need to do it any more.” That needn’t be a be-all and end-all – it’s not to say I won’t make another live show, or won’t go back to the Fringe ever again (I already have a new sort-of-live show in the works for 2023, but it won’t be at the Fringe). It was more that I got the feeling that if I went back to the Fringe again next year and tried to make another show following the same patterns and methods I’ve followed before, I wouldn’t learn anything or discover anything, and I wouldn’t prove anything to either myself or others. I would just be repeating myself.
By contrast, when I recorded The Dream Factory with the amazing cast and creative team, I had the realisation that this felt new, that this was a new type of thing to be making, and a new way of making something, that I desperately wanted to do more of. At other times in the year, I found myself doing work, or being considered for work, very different from what I’ve done in the past, and really enjoying it – directing other people, acting in R&Ds for big theatre shows, acting in films, being seen for bigger acting jobs, writing and pitching TV ideas, and so on. It was all small baby steps, but it felt new and like I was discovering new territories and areas to work within that I wanted to do more of. Ultimately, I think change energy is good energy, and powerful energy, and orienting myself consciously around change, around a wilful effort to keep discovering new methods and new collaborators and new roads to go down, will lead to a really interesting year. I’m excited to see what comes of it.
And, of course, there are ways in which I want to let my word apply to areas outside work as well but, again, I try to maintain a focus on work here. But I’d like to travel more, I’d like to become more creative in how I spend time with the people I care about, I’d like to keep building and strengthening new friendships I made this year, I’d like to become more active at going to see things like music and theatre because I saw a bunch of it at the end of the year after a long time away from it and realised how much I love it. All of those things feel like things that are important to me that are energised by the word “Change” as well. It feels like the right word.
What about you guys? Last year some of the words you reached out to tell me you were going to use included Action; Patience; Gratitude; Bloom and Build. How did those words work for you, those of you that took it on as something you wanted to try in 2022? Did you live your year according to your word? Did it produce interesting results for you? And what about the rest of you? Do you have any ideas for what you want 2023 to mean to you? What word might help you to achieve that? I’d love to hear about your choices!
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – Again, no idea. I try not to be too plugged into it over Christmas because it’s the holidays, y’know?
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – That Serena Williams gag in Glass Onion. Absolutely brilliant.
Book Of The Week – Just started The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. It’s good so far, it’s a sort of fable about a soldier in the Napoleonic wars who was in charge of Napoleon’s chicken larder. I’m enjoying it!
Album Of The Week – Been listening to Cardiac Arrest by Cameo today. Cameo’s Word Up! is one of my favourite silly 80s albums, so I thought I’d go back and listen to some of their earlier stuff. Turns out that pre-Word Up, Cameo were an incredibly blatant, inferior Parliament ripoff. It’s still a fun, good-time party funk album, but it’s not great, and I bet George Clinton was annoyed by it.
Film Of The Week – She Said. This is an odd film to watch, because its story (about the New York Times journalists who first broke the Harvey Weinstein story) is so uncinematic, and so many of the scenes just involve watching people making phone calls. About a third of the way through I twigged that it’s effectively a journalistic or documentary film in itself, and watched that way, it shines a very harsh light on the specific evils of that story. It’s an odd watch, but it’s an important one, I think.
That’s all for this week! As ever, if you’ve enjoyed the newsletter then I’d love you to send it to a friend, or encourage others to subscribe. The more the merrier! I hope you all had lovely Christmases and are looking forward to a great New Year – take care of yourselves, and good luck to you all with 2023!
PS Here’s a nice picture of some flamingos that I really liked at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition last week: