2017 word cloud reveals depressing, yet hilarious, existential truth

Everyone likes being able to close the book on the year gone by, put it on the shelf, and then take an admiring look at the library of their life thus far. It gives us a sense of accomplishment, progression, and purpose.

The title of my book for 2017, I have found thanks to modern technology, is both depressing and terribly hilarious.

While a lot happened for me this year, the core component of professional existence is writing about news and public affairs. Basically, what I write is my life, after a fashion. So for my own edification, I thought it would be valuable to plug everything I’d written into one document and generate a word cloud. Yes, word clouds were trendier 10 years ago, but just because something’s old doesn’t mean you get rid of it. (At least that’s what I tell LaVarr and Bryan every year.)

Applying big data like this to the journal of my professional life could help me identify what themes I write about, words I might overuse, and maybe even some personal insight. It could encapsulate a year of my work into one simple image.

This year I wrote 63 articles for publication, not counting this one. That’s an average of 1.2 articles per week, lower than I’d like, but I was in graduate school for most of the year, so I forgive myself. (In 2018, let’s see if we can get it closer to 2.5.) The total word count was 51,648. That’s the very low end of average for a nonfiction book – which should be between 50,000 and 75,000 words, but I’d never know since I will never write a book.

For Utah Policy, I have written 17 articles clocking in at 11,635 words, or about 22 percent of my total output. The rest of my stuff was for places like Investor’s Business Daily and The Weekly Standard, but I also wrote 21 arts & entertainment columns for the Deseret News.

So plugging those 51,648 words into wordart.com, this was the message to me for 2017.

20171228 Whitley


Expecting something profound about 2017, I instead learned that it was in fact just “One More Year” – a depressing, irrefutable, but also mostly hilarious outcome. (Note: when I showed this to one friend he thought I was joking; alas this word cloud is authentic.) For due diligence, I plugged in just my Utah Policy articles and the same three words were on top.

The notion that 365 days of dedication, perseverance, and aspiration might just be “one more year” could fill one with an existential malaise. Indeed, it reminds me of Seinfeld’s speech on birthdays:

Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and
how little we’ve grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better
self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know it’s not
to be, that for the rest of our sad, wretched pathetic lives, this is who we are
to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably; happy birthday? No such thing.


Overcoming this ennui is everyone’s job as a human being. It doesn’t bug me too much to just have one more year because, hey, it sure beats the alternative!