That’s a Wrap! December RAW NEWS Update

RAW NEWS is proving to be the perfect personal growth framework for me. It’s giving structure to my desire to spend time in the creative areas of reading, art, writing and learning, supported by a foundation of good nutrition, exercise, and self-care.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, for the reasons explained in this post, but I do set intentions. Here’s what happened in RAW NEWS in December, along with my intentions. Some of the intentions are for the entire year, but many are just for the next few months. I’m finding that I’m wanting to stay open this year and am enjoying making plans one season at a time.

hand drawn icon of bookRead

I did it! I met my 150 book Goodreads goal, plus a couple of extra.surrealistic image of woman hugging print

My average book length was 282 pages. The shortest book I read was On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Ruugas. A mere 78 pages, with lots of photos, it was helpful when I first rescued Shylah, my far from calm Mexi-mutt.

Longest book prize goes to Greg Illes novel, Mississippi Blood, a brute at 704 pages. Nevertheless, this final volume in the Natchez Burning trilogy held my interest, deserving the 5 star rating that I gave it.

Speaking of ratings, you won’t find any 1 star books on my list. Life’s too short and there are too many wonderful books out there. I found many of them. According to Goodreads, my average book rating was 3.7. Almost one-third of titles read were 5 star books for me.

Of the books I read, David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day was the most popular with 798,740 other people also reading it.

Next Year: It’s important to me that I continue to love reading, not that I gallop through books to achieve a self-imposed goal. Nevertheless, I enjoy challenging myself so I’m setting a goal of 155 books for 2018. If that starts to feel like pressure, I can change it.

hand drawn icon of painting with brush and pencil on topArt

It sounds silly to talk about learning to play, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. happy young girl hands covered in paintI’ve been working in an art journal using the 21 Secrets course emBody that I mentioned last month. So far, I’ve made paintings or mixed media pieces about my archetypal animals (sea turtles and bears), aspects of myself that I’m happy with, and images that come to mind from creatively visualizing chakras. In the process, I’ve been learning to: relax when creating a mess with paint, trusting that it will work out (and it does); balance my paintings by using colours or shapes in multiple places; layer colours so that under-layers can still be seen, and work with a variety of media in the same piece, such as acrylics and oil pastels and collage.

Next Year: I may take Rod’s “Sculpture for Absolute Beginners” course in the spring, but other than that I’m just going to keep playing. Eventually I’ll want to focus on a set of techniques for a while so I can try to make progress. You can expect, therefore, to see updates focused on watercolour, or collage, or narrative in painting, or drawing. But not yet. Right now my only goal is to have fun.

hand drawn icon of book with pencil on topWriting

This month was a combination of bead journaling, art journaling, and what I called standard journaling meaning thoughts about my day, plans, dreams recounted…..if writing is your practice quote

When I reread my written journal, the beads were far and away the most interesting and meaningful writing that I did. They also took the most time and effort to write.

Working in my art journal was a lot of fun. While I can’t imagine doing art journaling in place of written journaling, I found that the art journal added a whole other layer of meaning to my written words.

I wrote weekly blog posts in December, along with comments on other people’s posts. What I didn’t do in December or any other month was other writing, and that bothers me.

Next Year: I will continue to experiment with a variety of journaling forms and will write about my findings.

More important, I’m going to stop talking and thinking about living a writer’s life and will be devoting time every single day to actually doing it! My first priority will be to write a piece about my maternal grandmother. I didn’t really know her so I have interviewed her three daughters and am keen to see what I can uncover through their varied perspectives.

hand drawn icon of apple with bite out of itNutrition

As several of you suggested in your November RAW NEWS comments, December was the worst possible month to be worrying about nutrition or thinking about weight loss. I ate lots of sugar and I gained weight, however, I also did quite a bit of journaling, written and art, about body image and I am feeling positive and motivated.

Next Year: I really believe Eckhart Tolle’s comment – “Get the inside right, and the outside will fall into place.” I know that writing, art and mindfulness are going to help me a great deal in 2018. So there will be no big diets, no elaborate weight loss plans, no obsession about weight or food, period. I’m just going to focus on making small, incremental changes the Kaizen way. I’m also keeping things interesting by experimenting with new dinner recipes.

hand drawn icon of stylized person in motionExercise

I continue to love my Pilates Reformer sessions with my trainer. If I could afford it and if she had the time, I’d be doing two sessions a week–they’re that helpful.two dogs in snow, one wearing a green coat

Shylah, Toffee and I spend anywhere from an hour to two-and-a-half hours a day outdoors. That has meant an especially good workout the last couple of weeks because the snow has been deep and I don’t own snowshoes. Toffee wears a jacket because her curly hair gets matted with snow. I never thought I’d have a dog that wore clothing (I’m not a fan), but I think she’s adorable! Shylah’s afraid of the coats, but probably doesn’t need one anyway. She runs super fast and seems completely unaffected by the weather. This is huge progress. Remember when she cowered at the slightest breeze and was close to having a heart attack when she stepped on a pinecone?

Next Year: I have a gym adjoining my bedroom, with a great treadmill and all sorts of strength training equipment. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t used any of it in almost a year. While I love to be outdoors and will continue to walk the dogs every day, winter is a perfect time to be on the treadmill. Once I start, it won’t be difficult to sustain the effort. There are television series I allow myself to watch only when I’m on the treadmill. This winter it will be The Newsroom.

hand drawn icon of open boxWonder

Several of the books I read this month were about art making in general, and writing in particular. World Enough & Time and The Art of Slow Writing were about the exact opposite of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). pages of notebook curved to form heartRather than 50,000 words in 30 days, the authors of these books told stories of books taking years of diligent effort.

The other art and writing books were about the fears that stop us from doing our work. The War of Art is a classic in the field; Art & Fear is just as good. When I read these books, I could see the value of NaNoWriMo since one of the ways to conquer fear is to “act as if.”

Next Year: When I wrote my professional books, they each went from conception to print in just under a year. That was partly the nature of the writing and my background in the field, and partly the result of writing marathons. I’ve always wanted the experience of taking time with a piece of work. I’m going to follow the advice of Louise DeSalvo, author of The Art of Slow Writing, and devote the next three months to a thirty-page essay about my grandmother.

hand drawn icon of lotus flowerSelf-Care

In January’s post where I resolved to enjoy more pajama days in 2017, I proclaimed my intention to focus on two words – self-acceptance and savour. I completely, 100% of the time, forget about self-acceptance. Let’s not even talk about the Freudian implications of my memory lapse.young boy looking through magnifying glass

However, I did focus on savouring, which means that every night I recorded two or three things that I’d savoured over the course of the day. There’s lots of similarity between savouring and being grateful. Janis does a really nice job of summarizing what she was grateful for this year in a series of posts that she wrote this month.

Next Year: My word for 2018 is NOTICE. This relates to learning to observe, which I need for both art and writing. It’s also connected to that forgotten self-acceptance focus, as in noticing the way I talk to and think about myself and making changes as needed. At the end of each day, I’ll reflect on my word in my journal by answering the question, “What did I notice today?”

I benefitted this year from a free workbook provided by Susannah Conway. It’s called Unravel Your Year and it’s full of great questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2017 and plan for 2018.  Don’t worry about what she refers to as “monthly love letters.” They’re not monthly. There’s no danger of your inbox being inundated with Conway posts.

I hope your New Year is, as Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “full of things that have never been.”




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  1. Karen, so very, very inspirational! I continue to like your framework (hey, I am a structure girl!), maybe more now that I’ve seen how you’re using it so effectively.

    I signed up for Susannah’s workbook…looking forward to exploring it. And still thinking on my word for the year…notice is an amazing one for you!

    May your new year be full of wonder and creativity.

    1. I’m delighted that you’re going to explore Susannah’s workbook, Pat. You were the person I had in mind when I recommended it. I think/hope you’ll find it really helpful.
      Thank you for the new year’s wish – it’s a perfect expression of exactly what I hope for and will be open to in 2018.
      I don’t think I can be anywhere near as eloquent, and I don’t know your word yet, but I”m wishing you peace, health, and pleasures aplenty as you continue to fully live your retirement transition.

  2. You continue to inspire me with your thoughtful reflections, your insight into the world around you and how it effects you, and your commitment and dedication to the intentions (not goals) you set for yourself. You have a way of making the seemingly impossible, possible and inspirational. Thank you for sharing your deeply personal learning and life journey.

    I too, love your word for next year. NOTICE has such a sense of intentionality about it that the year ahead can’t help but be fulfilling and rewarding for you. I am so thankful that you have this blog so that I can go along your journey with you. All the best in 2018, Karen!

    1. Wow. This comment from you is a keeper, Maureen – one I’ll reread on ‘those’ days when the impossible feels only impossible and foolhardy, maybe even a bit insane.
      Most years, the word I choose is fine but not especially heartfelt. NOTICE, though, does feel like the absolutely right word for me. Thanks to you and to Pat for ‘noticing’ and commenting on that!
      2018 is going to be an amazing year for you, Maureen. Channeling Oprah, that’s something I know for sure.

  3. On the days when the impossible feels only impossible, foolhardy and maybe insane, just remember what Walt Disney said, “All dreams (and I think he would include intentions) can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Since his dream all started with a mouse, and that probably seemed foolhardy and insane to some, I believe that the impossible will be possible for both of us in 2018. Now I just have to find my word for the year …

    1. I didn’t want to put any pressure on you, but yes, finding your word for the year would be a good thing.
      Funny that you mention Disney and his mouse. I have a framed photo of a young Walt Disney drawing Mickey. The print is titled ‘Heritage’. I bought it for the Disney quotation printed at the bottom – “I hope we don’t lose sight of one thing–it was all started by a mouse.”

  4. Karen: What a wonderful recap of December and sensible intentions for the New Year! I like that two of your intentions are to have fun, and to change if it feels like pressure. I think your plan to write a 30-page essay about your grandmother is wonderful. Look forward to following your updates in 2018.

    1. Thanks, Natalie. Until you mentioned it, I didn’t realize that two of the seven intentions are to have fun. That’s such a huge change from my long lists of SMART goals in earlier years. Wahoo! Progress!

      You’ve written a terrific winter bucket list on your post, Natalie. I too will be looking forward to following your updates as you check your items off the list, and get ready for your spring list. It might be that my desire to think seasonally came subliminally from viewing your winter list.

  5. Great post Karen! You’ve got me googling intentions vs. resolutions – I did not know there was much difference, so I learned something new today! Looking forward to reading more as your 2018 progresses and you progress with your intentions. Love your 2018 word. My 2017 word was REACH – I need to find one for 2018 yet…better get on that!
    All the best,


    1. Hi Deb,
      I think you may have subscribed to my site through Feedly so wouldn’t have got the ebook I did about goals versus resolutions. In the morning, I’ll send a copy to your email address.
      Did you do a post about your 2017 word? I’ll have to look – REACH is a really interesting word to choose.
      Best to you for 2018, Deb. It’s going to be a great year!

      1. I’ll download your ebook from your site – it sounds like just the ticket! I did post about my 2017 in November 2016 (I think?) but I’ll be talking about it again very shortly when I put up my end of year post. I did do a lot of reaching in 2017 with regards to art, specifically. I wouldn’t mind using the same word again, or having 2 words for 2018…what a rule-breaker, eh? 😉

        1. Great, thanks. I inadvertently deleted a folder full of Profound Journey stuff from my Dropbox and I think the ebook was in that. If you download from my site, you’ll end up being subscribed in the usual way so you’ll get a short email from me each Thursday morning. If you decide you don’t like that, feel free to unsubscribe. I’ll know you’re still seeing the posts via Feedly.

          I’m looking forward to reading your end of year post. Chris Brogan does great yearly posts about his word for the year – but he goes for 3 words. So yes, break all those rules, Deb!

  6. I am just getting back to my computer now (8:44 p.m.) – it seems even though the holidays are winding down with just New Years Eve to go the busyness of my life has yet to follow suit and begin winding down. I just finished reading your awesome post on the December RAW NEWS update and your look into 2018. Wow, I am impressed by not only your insight but the clarity with which you state your intentions for the next year. I think you will enjoy slowing down your writing much like your book reading goal…not whipping through books to complete a certain number but challenging yourself none the less. I really like that you are being kind to yourself this coming year and focussing on FUN. Talk about tremendous progress!
    Can I just say I have pinned every single photo you included in this post? I especially like the woman hugging the print in the book. I too feel like that sometimes with books I treasure reading. I was given the big book on my wishlist for Christmas “Sleeping Beauties” by Stephen and Owen King. My reading goal will remain at the 40 books I was going for this year. I am just shy of my goal by 3 but I too am not going to pressure myself to race through books but simply challenge myself.
    I will come back and leave another comment on this post when I figure out what my intentions and word are for 2018 I still need a bit more time to mull over what is truly important to me and refine things before I say anything. I do know one thing though, I plan on saying No more often next year. I have so many irons in the fire I am just exhausted.

    1. Hi Susan,
      Just a suggestion but maybe your word for 2018 will be ENOUGH. As in I am enough. I do enough. I have enough. And some days – I’ve had enough! Being exhausted is no fun, especially during the holidays.
      Good for you for not worrying about being a few short on your reading goal. Love that you are challenging yourself, but not pressuring yourself.
      Wishing you the reflective time you need and crave to get to intentions and a word that matters to you for 2018.

      1. Okay we are down to the wire now (10:35 p.m. December 31, 2017) and I shall ponder no more – my list of Intentions for 2018 include 1) Saying No more often – to preserve my sanity and my energy 2) I will do more writing and reading – as I thoroughly enjoy both and I want 2018 to be happy above all and 3) upload more videos to my YouTube channel every week – it is my intention to upload a video every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My channel is finally snowballing and I want to focus on helping it grow this coming year.
        Thank you, Karen, I believe I will take your suggestion for my 2018 word. ENOUGH pretty much sums it up how I am feeling and a great mantra to focus on when deciding what to do with my next 365 days.

        1. Hi Susan,
          I’m glad you’ve gone with ENOUGH for your word. It sounds like the right word for you! Your intentions for 2018 sound good. You may not always achieve three videos a week – that’s a lot! – but I imagine you’ll do it often enough and come close often enough to make your channel the success you want it to be.

  7. Hi Karen
    I was delighted to see you are playing around with paints and colours. I hope you continue to find it fulfilling.
    Have a happy new year!

  8. I love your RAW NEWS wrap-ups and am delighted that they will continue into 2018. I’m also delighted that you may take more classes from Rod, he seems like such a good teacher. But, you are right, the important thing is to have fun!

    I’ve been doing some thinking about a word to focus on next year (LOVE Notice, by the way) and the closest I can come is “Prioritize,” but it sounds way too clinical. Maybe “Clear” (as in clearing out life clutter) or… ?

    Thanks for the link to my end-of-the-year GratiTuesday posts, I enjoyed writing them and surprising a few of my subjects (like my husband and sister-in-law).

    Best wishes to you for a wonderous and creative 2018!

  9. Hi Janis,
    Totally off the top of my head, how about CHOOSE? As in choosing what’s most important or matters most, and choosing what to keep in your life, both tangible and intangible, and choosing how to feel or how to respond.

    How wonderful for your husband and sister-in-law to have read your GratiTuesday posts. That’s very special.

    Happy New Year!

    1. That’s a good suggestion… making conscious choices instead of what is easy, or expected, or unfulfilling. I thought of another last night while I was staring at the ceiling at 3am (not a good choice 🙃) that might work too. We’ll see…

  10. Hi, Karen –

    I’m greatly enjoying your ‘raw news’. I love your subcategories, especially ‘wonder’.

    ‘Notice’ is a fantastic word for 2018. I look forward to reading your upcoming posts from this perspective.

    Wishing you a wonderful 2018 ahead!

  11. I’m a fan of your RAW NEWS. It looks like it is keeping you focused and more importantly, having fun. I like the idea of learning how to play again. I think you might have given me inspiration for 2018!

    Happy New Year, Karen! I hope 2018 is a generous year!

    1. Thanks, Joanne. Your comment about inspiration for next year is intriguing. I hope you’ll say more, either here or in one of your posts.
      Happy New Year to you. It’s going to be such a great one!

  12. What a great set of goals, Karen. And, your RAW NEWS of December is right on track, it sounds like. I love your word for 2018 – very insightful, rewarding and varied. Being an observer means being a learner, and being curious leads to excitement, wisdom and mindfulness.

    In December I have added the “most important thing of the day” to my diary entry, based on your bead journals. “What did I notice today” might be a nice addition, or change as well.

    No resolutions or intentions for me yet. Honestly, I haven’t had a moment to even think about this new year and what it might bring.

    Have a fantastic 2018!

    1. I’ve had the sense that you’ve been really crazy busy lately, Liesbet. I hope it’s all at a pace that is working for you and, if not, that there’s a slowdown in sight! Best for 2018.

  13. Karen, what a wonderful set of intentions and structure you have set in place for yourself with RAW NEWS. I am so glad that it is working out so well. I love the fact that you are staying open and planning your direction season by season (with the overall set of intentions to guide you).

    Learning to play again — so valuable, and also so sad that as we transition from childhood to adulthood, we forget how to play. I think this is particularly so for women, and also particularly so for creative endeavours.

    As you know, I am a fan of NaNoWriMo, mainly because it motivates me to plant my butt in the chair and write, rather than just thinking about writing. I don’t follow all the nano rules; I make it my own. When I sit down and write everyday, I become so engrossed in my story that it practically writes itself.

    Re: your grandmother story. Have you considered submitting to the CBC Literary Prize? There are three categories: non fiction, poetry, and fiction.


  14. I’ve been wondering how you’re doing with your novel since NaNoWriMo has ended. It sounds as if you’re carrying on and having great success. I’ve dreamt of having the experience where a text seems to write itself. That must be quite an incredible feeling. Maybe by next year, I’ll be ready to try my hand at a novel. If I do, I’ll definitely be coming to you for some NaNoWriMo advice. I like the idea of making my own rules.

    Thanks for the suggestion of submitting to the CBC Literary Prize. I don’t know if I’d be ready to try for it this year, but I might just give it a shot. And even if I don’t, you’ve given me something to think about. It’s a great idea to have a challenging goal, and submitting for consideration of a prize is definitely a massively challenging goal (she says, gulping).

    1. Actually, halfway into December, I had to put the novel aside and concentrate on the Christmas frenzy, plus all the other things that had piled up while I was writing and travelling. But I am soooo close to having a complete first draft.


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