Do I Write Too Loud?
I forgot to upload this week's video and make a blog post until almost 9 PM on a Friday night.
I'm going to pretend that I was testing the analytics to see when people are most likely to read and watch. But, I really just forgot earlier in the day.
Without further ado, here is the update for week seven, and a discussion of one of my most impactful personal practices: Writing Out Loud.
(Transcript below, and a youtube link is below as well, if you'd rather watch there.)
You can watch (subscribe, etc) on YouTube as well:
Am I Writing Too Loud? MWP Week Seven
Flannery O’Connor, the great southern gothic writer, once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
This is true for me on multiple levels. I call it Writing Out Loud. I’ll share some thoughts about that, and give you an update on Week Seven of my challenge to write one million words.
Won’t you join me on this week’s installment of…
Welcome to the Million Words Project update for week Seven!
I'm Eric Sheridan Wyatt, author, writing instructor, and creativity coach.
I've given myself the challenge of writing ONE MILLION WORDS in twelve months. Each week, I post an update on my progress and share some of the ups and downs of this creative life.
Along the way, I'll share some things I've learned—and am often STILL learning—about my writing life.
My hope is that these videos will ignite YOUR creativity, light your entrepreneurial fire, or otherwise inspire you to take on a challenge you've been putting on the back burner for too long.
If you have a BIG THING you’ve always hoped to accomplish, but have struggled to make progress toward, maybe you’ll find something here to help you out.
And, if you’re chugging right along, like the little engine that could, I hope these videos will encourage you to keep up the good work.
Let's start this week's journey.
After last week’s below par outing, I followed up with another rough week, as far as counting words goes. Yikes! I squeaked just over the finish line.
The week went a little off the rails. I had an unexpected family funeral to attend, and I ended up taking a day trip that I wasn’t expecting. That combined with still catching up from two prior weeks where my routine was interrupted, well... I was scrambling a bit.
Plus, last week was my monthly meeting with my friend Matt. He’s a photographer and designer, and we get together one day each month to talk about our work, help each other work through creative roadblocks, and encourage each other toward our respective Big Projects and meaningful work.
If you don’t have at least one creative and encouraging fellow traveler, I’d strongly suggest you get a buddy like Matt.
Back to the numbers for week seven:
My weekly journal numbers were bordering on the low end, and that client work that I was anticipating last week? Well. That project is still a no-go.
You will notice, though, that *play a trumpet sound* that’s right. For the first time since I started the million words project, I have new words to report in the category of FICTION WRITING.
It is a modest start, but, I did reach my mini-goal of writing five new pages this week. So, I will celebrate as if it was a big win, for about five minutes, and then make some plans to improve my fiction numbers next week.
As I stated last week, now that I’m more than a month into the Million Words Project, I am making an effort to not just pile up words, but to work toward a distribution of words closer to my ideal balance.
Shifting away from such a heavy focus on the Life Document project, I am starting to address other non-fiction books and essays, as well as re-starting my long-stalled fiction career.
Part of my ongoing creative evolution involves coming to terms with which projects and ideas I want to pursue, and which one’s maybe aren’t that important, upon further reflection.
How do I make decisions about what to pursue, and what to prioritize? One tool I rely on quite heavily was referenced in the opening to today’s episode.
And it is this weeks…
There are several tools I try to utilize when I'm feeling stuck.
Sometimes, I make a more detailed daily schedule, and isolate myself from computers, phones, and other distractions.
Sometimes, I know a change of venue will help, so I go to the library, or a favorite coffee shop, or a local park where I can write for a while and re-engage with the work.
Sometimes, I'll meet with a friend, like Matt, and we'll talk through challenges and strategize next steps.
But when these, and other, tools at my disposal fail to move the needle of my work, I turn to a process I've come to call, Writing Out Loud.
The idea is similar to some people I know who "think out loud," in order to process information, including their own thoughts and feelings.
Writing Out Loud is my way of doing that processing of the interior that seems to be subconsciously hidden from my conscious thinking.
Often times, when I'm stuck, there is some hidden agenda at play. Something is lurking beneath the surface of my conscious mind, and, much like the quote from Flannery O'Connor, I often have to write about a topic, before I really understand what it is I think and feel.
I give myself an opportunity to "write out loud" a little bit, every morning, when I journal. I try to do a daily journaling session, six days a week, first thing in the morning. I actually cover a LOT of ground in my morning pages, and I will likely talk about that in a future episode.
Sometimes, the journaling will go a little longer than normal, and usually that's an indication that I've begun to wrestle with myself, in words.
With some topics, or some daily problems, the journaling session will be enough to help me see an angle or layer I'd missed, and I can step back and recalibrate. But with some bigger areas where I get stuck, I need a separate, dedicated Writing Out Loud Session.
Back before I had read that description from Flannery O'Connor, and before I had labeled my own habit of discerning my thoughts and feelings through writing, I was doing some form or another of Writing Out Loud.
One of my current Big Things projects is my ongoing Life Document project. One part of that project includes going back through all of my journals from high school through today. Even as early as my first year of college, I was doing some form of Writing Out Loud.
I didn't know it, at the time. I was just doing what I thought you did with a journal. But most of my early journal entries were actually very sparse and externally focused. I had this class, I saw this cute girl on campus, I went to the dollar cinema with some friends.
But every once in a while, there would be a page or two where I was just trying to figure out the world, and, myself.
Now, those early efforts weren't as fruitful as they are now. Partly because I was younger and dumber than I am today. Partly because I hadn't yet come to understand the importance of what I was doing.
I've refined the process over the years. In the last eight years or so, I've really focused on evolving Writing Out Loud into a dedicated, intentional practice to help me process the internal landscape.
And, as with any practice or routine, I sometimes have to be reminded that it might help me get over a hurdle, if I would sit down, and write it out.
I won't get into the details here, but there have been two major pieces of my current creative and business life that have been keeping me stuck, since this Million Words Project began. It is actually part of WHY I launched this project.
Briefly, though, I'll mention that the two areas where I felt stuck was in the evolution of my fiction writing—which I consider my main artistic craft—and the future of my educational, mentoring, and coaching business.
For both of these areas, I had spent a lot of time journaling, and talking to Matt, and Thinking Out Loud with my wife, and just generally chasing my tail to try to find an answer.
And in both areas, it took a long, dedicated Writing Out Loud session to really break through to the core truth of the situation.
That doesn't mean those other tools weren't helpful. Often times, journaling and talking it out is enough to break the log jam. This time though, I needed something a little stronger.
After several hours, and several thousand words, I had some answers. Why did I feel stuck? What was holding me back? What did I really WANT to do, and WHY did I want to do it?
Writing Out Loud helps me uncover the deeper meaning and purpose behind my goals and ambitions, and often helps solve the riddle of what hidden agendas are holding me back.
There's too much to go into in this episode, but I'll give you the rough outline of how I do this exercise.
First, I state an explicit Purpose.
Then, I write a brief Overview of the issue I'm considering.
Next, I might create a Section Outline, if there are multiple facets of the problem I want to address.
Then, I engage in a Freewriting exercise for each section, or if there's just one big problem, I free write about that.
Then, I walk away, and give the issue time to incubate.
Later, I go back to review what I wrote in the free write phase, and then refine my thinking either by editing the existing words, or by REWRITING my conclusions completely.
There's so much to say about the benefits of doing this sort of exercise, and ESPECIALLY doing this exercise longhand. The number of times I've uncovered a hidden truth, or demolished the false narrative that had been holding me back...well, it's more than I can count.
To reiterate these steps, I'll give you an assignment in the points to ponder section coming up, but for now, let's move on to...
Aristotle said, "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."
One of the most amazing things about writing, in general, but about Writing Out Loud in particular, is that it is an amazing tool for learning more about your true, deep-down, unfiltered, and unfettered self.
I've not yet arrived in this department. I'm constantly uncovering the next layer. But writing has been the way I've found more and more of myself, and what little wisdom I do have—as opposed to the mounds of knowledge and so-called informed opinions I've attempted to amass over the years—is a direct result of doing this kind of work.
Even if you aren't a writer, even if you think "I'm not someone who identifies with that Flannery O'Connor quote, OR the gobbledygook this writer guy is spouting," I would encourage you to give Writing Out Loud a try.
It might not change your life, but it might just help you find something that can.
Getting stuck is an inevitable part of any creative or BIG THING project. If we are really pushing ourselves, we are—by definition—entering into uncharted—or at least unfamiliar—territory.
We each develop a tool kit of things that we've learned to rely on to help us when we are stuck, or lost, or otherwise spinning our wheels.
I've found that a specific and intentional practice of Writing Out Loud is one of the most powerful tools to help me answer the questions, solve the problems, and help me find the meaning and purpose which then ignites the passion, energy, and enthusiasm to tackle the things that mean the most to me.
Points to Ponder
So here you go: Your mission, if you choose to accept it...
Practice a basic Writing Out Loud exercise, based on some area where you feel STUCK.
I'm not talking about something you're avoiding or procrastinating and you already know the reason WHY you're doing that. (Although, sometimes, I'll do a Writing Out Loud session even then, to uncover deeper layers of my own motivations.)
I'm talking about something you want to do. Something you feel deep down you NEED to do. Something you've STARTED to do, or SCHEDULED to do, or otherwise COMMITTED to doing, but you can't get started. Or you can't keep at it. Or no matter how much you want it and believe in it, you just can't get unstuck.
It could be a personal issue. Or something for your vocation. Maybe it is a creative project or a new business idea, or some hobby you've dabbled in for years, but have toyed with the idea of making it a more central part of your life, maybe even your career.
Here is the basic outline of the Writing Out Loud exercise for you to try.
First, set a purpose. Identify and intentionally state why you are writing out loud.
You could write, "The purpose of this exercise is to figure out..." whatever it is you're focused on.
It could just be a sentence, but often I end up writing a paragraph.
Second, write an overview. This is a sort of narrative history of the issue. What you've tried or not tried. Where the pain points are. Usually for me, this is a sort of history of the problem or the general story of my stuck-ness.
Third, do a free writing exercise. Do not edit. Do not think, in the controlling way we usually think. Just write.
Set a timer for ten minutes, and don't let yourself do anything else but write. And I cannot stress enough: I HIGHLY recommend you do this free writing in long hand.
Write stream of consciousness, or as close to it as you can. Write what you think and feel. Write what is frustrating you, even if what is frustrating you is that you can't think of anything to write about this stupid topic, and what was that dumb dumb in the video thinking when he told me to do this, and who does he think he is, anyway.
Ask yourself the tough questions. Why is this thing important? Is it really important? Is it important to me, or to someone else, and in either case, is it something I really want and believe in? What are my motivations?
This free writing is likely to be...chaotic. It should be, because if you already knew the answer, you wouldn't be looking for it.
If the ten minute timer sounds and you're still feeling like writing, then keep going. The timer was just a starting point.
When you feel like you've let it all out, or at least all for now...walk away. Say thank you to the pen and paper, and go do something else.
After some time has passed, come back and re-read what you wrote. Pay special attention to any areas you may have uncovered that hadn't been held consciously before the exercise.
Then, finally, write a conclusion statement to the exercise. Did you learn anything? Did you discover any answers? If not, do you still think the thing you were stuck in was important? Do you see any way of getting unstuck?
Maybe this won't solve your problem, but there's a good chance that it will stir up some residual effects, and you might just find yourself on a path to moving forward.
That's all for this week.
If you find this video, or the Million Words Project series valuable to you, I'd love to hear from you. If you like, subscribe, or comment, it helps boost the rankings of these videos and helps others find this information.
And, if you try this Writing Out Loud exercise, I'd love to hear your feedback. Drop me a line in the comments. Or, you can find my contact info in the show notes.
Most importantly, if there is a specific someone you think might benefit from this content, be sure to send them a link and invite them to join us.
Thanks so much for joining me. I'll see you soon with the next update.
Until then, remember: Words Matter. Make yours count.
Credits and Contact
The Million Words Project is a production of Words Matter Creative Writing.
©2022 Eric Sheridan Wyatt, for Words Matter Creative Writing
Contact Eric@WordsMatterESW.com or see the show notes for more information.
Week Seven: Written, filmed, and hosted by Eric Sheridan Wyatt in Fall Festooned Northern Kentucky.
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Link to episode one, in case you're new to the Million Words Project.