Writing Toward Home

Writing , Ideas, and Encouragement

Month: January 2017

Wordplay Wednesday: Two-Word Tenets

Wordplay Wednesday: Two-Word Tenets : Precepts Simplified

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my plan to abandon resolution-making and instead adopt precepts, which are “words to live by.” I have deliberately chosen  this more gentle and gradual approach to changing certain aspects of my life, because I realize, perhaps rather belatedly,  this is the only way true and lasting transformation takes place.

 I am using the precepts from 365 Days of Wonder by R.J. Palacio as my guide and muse for this endeavor.  Each morning I read the quote or saying for that date and then use it as the jumping off point in my Morning Pages journal.  My responses can be a bit of a stream of consciousness ramble, but eventually I find some direction in the tangle of thoughts and words. 

My next step is to clarify and distill the precept(s) down to a two-word tenet that I can use to direct my actions in many areas of my life.  I like the idea of making  my goals  short and memorable and therefore livable.  As I said in the previous post at the beginning of the year, I am trying to develop ways of being rather than doing. These precepts/tenets therefore become a way of living that does not need to be completely overhauled at the beginning of a calendar year. It takes away the stress and pressure of having to start so many new habits at once, which for me seems to never result in lasting change.

  I have been pleased to realize that the topics of the precepts and my journal responses have already circled back  to repeated themes in the first 17 days. The best way to learn and retain anything is through  many repetitions which leads to what scientists  call  “overlearning.”   Overlearning leads to a behavior being more likely to be maintained over a long period of time. This is what I need to pursue : meaningful, long-lasting change  rather than a temporary burst of frenzied activity.

Here are the tenets I have adopted so far:

Embrace Wonder

Choose Kindness

Love Fully

Live purposefully

Be Yourself

Continue Learning

Keep Trying

These  may appear to be too general, but within each tenet there exists a multitude of  behaviors that can be nurtured. For instance under “ Choose Kindness”, I can decide each day how I can show compassion toward others and toward myself. In kindness to others I need to be aware of those around me who may require encouragement or a smile or perhaps more tangible assistance. In kindness to myself I can choose to eat better/ move more or engage in an activity that feeds my soul or mind.

With “ Keep Trying” I can remind myself that this  path of change is a journey, not a  50-yard dash and that when I inevitably  encounter difficulties, I just need to keep going.

I am looking forward to seeing where the ideas of precepts and tenets lead the course of the year and beyond.

Do you have a tenet that you live by?

Wordplay Wednesday: Calling all Word Nerds!

Wordplay Wednesday : Calling all Word Nerds!


Monday, January 9 was National Word Nerd Day. I love having my own special day, don’t you? I am an unabashed, unapologetic Word Nerd. I love words of all kinds, phrases, quotes, poems, word puzzles, word games and of course stories and books!

I am an habitual word collector and I have lists of words I love everywhere: on index cards, scraps of paper, receipts, bookmarks, notebooks and so on. I am an insatiable reader and when I read I keep a pen and some kind of paper close by to record words or phrases I want to savor, remember and use in my writing.

I also love learning new words. Just this week a fabulous artist and fellow Word Nerd shared a new term which is so perfect: “OKOMO” which refers to a person who is beautiful inside and out. My friend who shared the word is exactly that and I aspire to be a OKOMO, too.


Some words are just so much fun to say or have such wonderful meanings that they deserve special attention. The following are some of my favorites from recent reading. Try reading the words aloud and you will see what I mean. If any are unfamiliar, look them up.


accoutrements   opalescent   impertinent vociferous numinous

festooned   unfathomable   exultation   jubilant beseeched

insurmountable   conciliatory giddy   luminous stupendous

ethereal frivolity nostalgia traipsing unquenchable cantankerous


Eventually, my gathered words are archived into my Lexicon, which is my word book where I formally collect words. I use a sewn, bound notebook for this purpose. I have a section each for nouns, verbs and adjectives, plus in the back I make word lists: color words ( periwinkle, azure, chambray, cerulean, lapis, cobalt, indigo), names of trees, breeds of chickens and so on. Intentionally collecting the words and periodically reading through my Lexicon is a way of growing my vocabulary and improving the quality of my writing. Plus it’s fun!


I encourage you to collect words that are new to you or that you love and use them whenever you can in your conversations or writing.


Do you have some favorite words? I would love for you to share! Word Nerds UNITE!



Wordplay Wednesday

Wordplay Wednesday: Replacing Resolutions with Precepts



Happy New Year! For many years I anticipated the beginning of the year by engaging in the time-honored tradition of making resolutions and goals for myself in a host of areas. To be frank, in my enthusiasm I tended to go overboard in this endeavor and after a few days of frenzied activity I’d lose momentum and most things fell by the wayside. Since I can be a bit hard on myself, the whole resolution-making process ended up being more harmful than beneficial.


This year I have decided to replace resolutions and goals with precepts, which are defined as “words to live by.” I stumbled across this idea after reading R.J, Palaciao’s middle-grade novel Wonder. (As an aside, the book is a terrific read for adults as well as children. I highly recommend it.)  In the story, a teacher presents one precept per month to his students which they discuss and later respond to in an essay. As a follow-up book, Palacio published 365 Days of Wonder, which is a collection of daily precepts focusing on the virtues of kindness, strength of character, overcoming adversity and making the world a better place.


I decided that rather than compiling a huge, overwhelming list of goals, I would use the book of precepts and approach the year as a growth mindset, using a day-by-day, step-by-step process. The precepts are not a list of things to do, but rather ideas about how to be. I have decided that what I do should reflect who I am and who I want to become.


As a way of internalizing the precepts I am using them as writing prompts for my Morning Pages. I write the precept at the top of the page and then respond to it. I think about what the precept means in terms of how I view the world, how I treat others and what actions it leads me to take. From my Morning Page reflections on the precepts I am uncovering what actions or course of behavior I need to adopt in the areas of relationships, creativity, intellectual growth, spiritual growth and health.


For instance, the entry for January 3 was a quote from Henry James: “ Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind.” As I pondered and wrote on this precept I thought about what it looks like to be kind to others and also to myself. These ideas will now inform my actions going forward as I adopt behaviors for kindness to my body, my mind, my creative nature and my relationships with family and friends.


This gentle, intuitive and thoughtful approach to change and growth feels much more natural and doable to me. In the past I felt harried and pushed by trying to keep up with a checklist of too many new things to do. So far I am experiencing a sense of possibility and anticipation as I daily embrace the precepts and really think about how to apply them to my life.


My precepts so far are:

Choose Kindness.

Embrace Wonder.


Both of those short statements offer a multitude of choices for thoughts and actions I can apply daily for the rest of my life. I am excited about what practices and ideas I will adopt as the year unfolds.


If the idea of resolutions leaves you overwhelmed, I encourage you to try precepts.





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