Here is the half-way-there episode of the Million Words Project...hope you enjoy.
Embedded video below, or you can watch at YouTube: https://youtu.be/t2qIEREn2cs
Transcript below the video, if you'd prefer to read...
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
I ordered three deserts.
After an enormous meal served at a wonderful Greek restaurant.
I'd had gyro, pastitsio, and moussaka, and I was full and happy.
But I still ordered three deserts.
Why? Because I was celebrating.
And celebrating is an important component of maintaining an ongoing, intentional, and productive creative life.
This episode will not be anywhere near as enjoyable as having three Greek pastries to savor. In fact, it won't even be close.
But, I'm still inviting you to join me on this episode of, The Million Words Project.
Welcome to the Million Words Project update for weeks twenty-four and twenty-five, I am your host, Eric Sheridan Wyatt.
Twenty-five weeks ago, I challenged myself to write one million new words over the next year. In this video series, I document my progress, and share some of the things I'm learning about my creative life, and myself, along the way.
I make these videos to reinforce what I'm learning within myself, but also, I hope that something I say here might encourage you to pursue that long-time creative project you've always dreamed of, but have never quite gotten around to achieving.
So, the big realization is: This is the half-way show!
That's right, twenty-five weeks is half-way through the Million Words Project. When I devised the schedule for this year-long quest to reach one million new words, I intentionally built in two weeks of down time.
I did this partly because one million words divided by fifty-two weeks would have given me a weekly target of nineteen-thousand two-hundred thirty POINT seven six nine two three zero seven...well, you get the picture. One million divided by fifty makes for a nice round twenty-thousand word weekly target.
In fact, if you were here for the first episodes of this video series, you might remember, I actually started with the twenty-thousand word per week target in mind, and then realized that over a year, that pace would equal about a million words, and that's where the idea for The Million Words Project was born.
I also know that having some down time is good for all of us, so I built in a couple of "vacation weeks" where I knew I'd be able to have some wiggle room with meeting the ongoing word count targets, and still stay on track.
In fact, after week twenty-five, I actually took a two-week hiatus from the Million Words mindset, which is something I'll talk about in a coming episode. But, for now, let's see what happened in weeks twenty-four and twenty-five.
If you tuned into the last episode, you'll remember that in week twenty-three, I finished off a five week span of prioritizing my fiction writing, and in that week, I wrote over thirty-two thousand words.
Part of the reason I wrote so much that week was related to the sprint to finish a rough draft of a book of interconnected short stories I was writing. But, there was another reason I wrote so much: I had intentionally carved out a week of time where writing was my primary focus, and I wanted to make the most of it.
Most weeks, writing is only one part of the balance of life responsibilities. But in week twenty-three, I put extra emphasis on writing.
I knew that there were several weeks coming up when I would have considerably less time to write. Weeks twenty-four and twenty-five were both short work weeks for me. Even though I'm posting this in March, these two weeks were in December, and they included both my birthday and the ramp up to Christmas and New Years. My wife and I traveled to Florida to celebrate my birthday in Tarpon Springs, and then visited with her family in the Tampa Bay area.
I also knew that I had an intentional hiatus scheduled for the first two weeks of the year, so, I really used week twenty-three to bank some extra words to make up for the changes I already knew were on the horizon.
And, I'll give you a preview into the second-half of the Million Words Project...the changes that I KNEW were on the horizon were only a FRACTION of the challenges that lay in front of me. But those things will be revealed in later episodes.
For now, let's focus on where I was during weeks twenty-four and twenty-five:
As you can see in the numbers, I came off a week of being twelve-thousand words above target and had back-to-back weeks right at two-thousand below target. Which actually, wasn't too bad.
Even though I have a twenty-thousand word target each week, I know some weeks are not conducive to hitting that target. Other weeks, twenty-thousand is relatively easy to achieve. So, for these two weeks, I set a "bare minimum" target of fifteen thousand, and I actually exceeded that both weeks.
So, even though I was below the steady-pace target, I actually did slightly better than I'd planned.
And, I had already passed the mid-project target of five-hundred thousand words. If we look at the cumulative totals, you'll see by the end of week twenty-five, I had accumulated five-hundred forty-five thousand three-hundred forty new words.
(If you look closely, you'll see the PACE number in this chart is wrong. It should say the pace is five-hundred thousand.)
But, the bottom line is this: I wrapped up the first half of the year-long challenge about 9% ahead of the pace I'd set for myself. And that was a great feeling. I went into the planned hiatus on a bit of a literary high!
I even got to celebrate hitting the half-way mark, while I was celebrating my birthday.
And that brings us to this week's topic.
That's right, this week, I'm going to talk about fabulous greek food and ordering three desserts!
While, it's true, as part of my birthday celebration, I did eat some amazing Greek food in Tarpon Springs, and I did, in fact, order three pastries from the Greek cafe for dessert, the point I'd actually like to make is this:
It's good to celebrate your victories.
Now, my mid-point literary celebration just happened to line up with my birthday, so it made it a little easier, but I really was celebrating how far I've come in the six months of this Million Words challenge.
I had just finished a draft of a new book, which was a major win for my literary revival. And, I'd crossed the half-way point of the challenge with plenty of room to spare. I was actually more than two weeks ahead of pace.
I'd also just had a week of writing more than thirty-thousand words, and that sort of proved that I could write even more, whenever I have the time to do so. And that was a big win. It was the biggest writing week I'd had in more than eight years, so that felt really good.
Taking the time to reflect on this, in my morning journal, I wrote: “This wouldn't have even seemed possible, last year, at this time. I was happy and things were going well enough, but I wasn't writing—not like this—and I wasn't being creatively productive.”
That's right. It is exactly right.
Yes, it's true, I still feel like I have a ways to go before I'm actually in the creative zone I'd like to inhabit. I have more room for improvement.
But, at the same time, I've made some big progress, and one way to encourage even more progress, is to recognize the wins and celebrate them a little bit.
And, that's exactly what I did. I said, "You know what, I just finished a draft of a book I've wanted to write for five years, and I am so happy about that, I will have three pastries, thank you very much."
Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying, "Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead."
The truth is, most of us are predisposed to getting fixated on the negatives in life. The one negative review will outweigh one-hundred positive comments. The one time you missed a deadline will haunt you, despite all the times you've been right on the mark.
One of the big benefits of this year of tracking my writing is seeing the ebb and flow of my creativity and literary efforts reflected in the numbers each week. It has helped me have a more gentle relationship with myself and assisted in taming the harsh inner critic who can often do more harm than good.
And, it has helped me identify some of the celebratory milestones along the way. Taking Mandela's advice, I took some time to celebrate a milestone, as I also prepared for the next phase of the journey ahead.
You see, the writing life, or any creative life, can sometimes feel like a slog. Like it's all treading water. Especially if you don't ever take a step back and get a good look at the progress you've made.
Maybe you're an artist. Take out some of your paintings or sketches from five years ago, and compare to your recent work. Are you improving?
Maybe you're a photographer. Is your technique and composition more confident now than you were two years ago?
Maybe you're a business owner. Are you still innovating? Are you improving your product or advancing your mission?
If so, it's a good thing to celebrate those wins. Even if they are small. Even if you think you are still capable of more.
Points to Ponder
I realized just how important it was from me to mark the half-way point of this year-long challenge with a little bit of celebration and self-congratulations. I was going to take some time off, and then jump back in with enthusiasm and energy! I used that celebration to catapult me into the second-half of the project.
As we wrap up this update, I'm going to challenge you: When was the last time you celebrated a victory?
If it's been a while, I'm going to suggest you find a few recent wins, and treat yourself to something nice.
Don't get this wrong: This isn't an excuse to buy yourself a new car because you didn't hit the snooze button for a whole week, or a justification for convincing yourself you don't have more room for improvement.
But, it is important, creatively and psychologically, to intentionally celebrate our progress, even if we haven't yet achieved perfection.
There are three parts to this celebration.
First, specifically name what you are grateful for. For me, it was finishing a draft of a new book, and reaching the half-way point of the Million Words Project ahead of pace.
Second, pick something that is decadent, but reasonable. It doesn't have to be expensive or take up a lot of time, but it should be something a little "extra." For me, it was extra desserts at an already celebratory dinner. If you rarely go to the local cafe, but you really enjoy it, maybe it's just taking the time to go get a latte and a muffin. But if you go get coffee and a pastry on a regular basis, don't just pick one of those trips and say, "This is my celebration." Make it something a little beyond the ordinary.
Finally, enjoy the celebratory moment with intention, and ideal, with someone else. Sharing the moment with my wife, and acknowledging, "I am taking a few minutes here to celebrate finishing the draft of my book," made that baklava taste even sweeter.
That's a wrap! We are now half-way through the Million Words Project. And, it's fair to say, there are still some twists and turns left to come!
I've learned a lot about myself, and I hope some of that is helpful to those of you who watch these videos.
If you've found anything helpful to you, I'd love to hear about it. There are ways to contact me listed in the show notes. Or you can leave a comment, hit the like button, subscribe to my content, or share these videos with others.
Thanks for watching, and I'll see you next time.
Halfway through the fifty weeks of the Million Words Project, AND I had just finished a draft of a new book, AND it was my birthday! Let's celebrate!
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