Go Ahead, Punk...Make My Morning!
It's that time again!
The Million Words update for week 12 is available.
Watch it here, or you can find the YouTube link and transcript below.
Or, if you prefer YouTube, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/qRzsGTqUGLM
Go Ahead, Punk...Make My Morning: MWP week 12
SHOOT IN KITCHEN: Grinder, beans, aeropress, blender, sip, Ahhhhh....
Every morning I have a pick me up that really sets me up for success.
No, I'm not going to try to sell you a branded line of coffee beans or convince you that my bulletproof coffee is the best.
A glass of water and my first coffee of the day are SUPER. I absolutely love that morning ritual.
But the thing that REALLY gets me going and keeps me on the right track is my daily journaling practice.
Let's talk about that, and I'll let you know how things went in week twelve of...
Welcome to week twelve of the Million Words Project. I'm Eric Sheridan Wyatt, and I've challenged myself to write one million new words in twelve months.
Each week, I post an update of my progress in my million words challenge, and along the way I share some of the ups and downs of my writing and creative life.
Hopefully, you'll find something here to help inspire or challenge you to pursue your own creative vision, or motivate you to pursue some meaningful and purposeful Big Thing project you've been putting off for far too long.
If you'd like to know more about me, or the Million Words Project, there are plenty of links in the show notes.
For now though, let's get on with this week's update.
Week Twelve was a "front loaded" week, because my schedule for the weekend was taken with a two day trip to Tennessee to visit with a friend we haven't seen in about a year. I wanted to be sure to get my words in, early, so I did a little bit of the Hemingway method.
Famously, when Hemingway was in Key West or Cuba, he really didn't want to spend his time writing. He wanted to fish.
So, the story goes, he would trick himself into writing by setting a word goal, and telling himself he could go fishing once he'd met his goal for the day.
This sort of "carrot and stick" approach to creativity seems counter-intuitive, but I've found it can work, under limited circumstances. For me, it doesn't usually work over a long period of time, but when there is a deadline or I've found it really hard to find internal motivation, I will sometimes rely on this method of encouraging myself to do the writing by rewarding myself with something once I hit a target.
In this case, my carrot and stick were pretty simple: I had a new guitar arriving, and I told myself I would not unbox the guitar until I hit my goal on Tuesday, and I wouldn't play the guitar until I'd hit the goal on Wednesday.
Pulling up the numbers for week twelve, you can see the Hemingway method worked.
The total new words written for the week was twenty-two thousand forty-five. And, there was a nice distribution. I was a little heavy in the Life Document, compared to the six-thousand or so words that I'm shooting for in that area.
But, if we switch over to the Charts, you'll see that the percentage of the total words written that are in the Life Document category is now less than 50%.
And, Fiction is slowly inching its way back toward a creatively balanced representation.
The current total for twelve weeks is just about Two-hundred fifty-four thousand words, which is about fourteen thousand words ahead of pace.
And, two-hundred fifty thousand is another milestone, as I've reached the one-quarter mark on the journey to one million words.
Switching back to the category view, we see that the fiction total for the week was pretty healthy, and that was a good thing.
And, journaling came in a little over six thousand last week, which brings us to today's topic.
Obviously, I take my journaling practice very seriously. This makes the third straight update in which I've talked about journaling. It will probably be the last time journaling is a topic, at least for a little while.
But I thought it might be helpful if I described my current practice in a little more detail.
As I mentioned in an earlier video, my journaling output is one of the most consistent and accurate measures of my creative, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
If my journal week is averaging between four thousand and forty-five hundred words in a week, I know I'm in the "normal/stasis" mode of life. There may be challenges or joyful things going on, but I'm dealing with it in a healthy way, and things are progressing.
If I go below 4,000 words in a week, that is a big red flag. If it happens for more than two weeks in a row, it's time to reassess and ask myself some hard questions.
Because what is most likely happening if I am less than 4,000 words in my journaling practice is, NUMBER ONE, I'm not actually sitting down on a daily basis to journal, and NUMBER TWO, the reason for that is likely that I'm running away from some thought, emotion, feeling, or problem. There is something I don't want to face, and I'm avoiding the mirror of the journal page.
Sometimes, that's just simply that I've lost motivation or a sense of purpose in living this creative life. Sometimes, it is because the outside world is intruding in ways that I've not yet figured out how to handle properly.
There are many reasons to miss the "healthy goal" for one week. But I know that if it becomes a regular thing, I need to figure out why, and how to address it.
On the other end of the spectrum, long journaling sessions tend to indicate one of two things: ONE, I'm in a period of deep creativity in which I am having multiple revelations about life, my work, my art, or some BIG QUESTION of existence.
Or, TWO, long journals can mean that I am butting up against a deep life problem, but using the journal as one way to work on or through it.
For the last five weeks, I've been averaging something like six-thousand words a week in my journal, and it's been a little of BOTH of those scenarios.
So, before I blab on any more about HOW important it is for me to have a healthy journaling life, let's break down what I actually DO during my journaling hour. If you didn't see the prior two videos on journaling, you might want to check those out for more information.
Anyway, My journaling life really took off in 2011 when I worked through Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. It's a book I've read three times, and have taught twelve-week classes to groups of writers and would-be writers. It's a classic.
The basic outline of the Morning Pages, as Julia Cameron calls them are pretty simple:
Write in the morning before you do anything else.
Write three pages in a journal
Write stream of consciousness, or as close as possible
Even if you have to write, "I have nothing to write," don't stop writing
Do not allow anything to distract you from the pages
Write your pages longhand, in a journal that only you will ever see
Wonderful!! Let me tell you, it is no understatement to say Morning Pages changed my life. For several years, my morning routine consisted of following these "rules" of Morning Pages very closely, and it established an amazingly beneficial habit.
However, I have, over time, loosened some of Julia Cameron's rules, and I've modified the morning pages to accomplish a few other things.
Here is how I approach my Modified Morning Pages, or the not-at-all original, and certainly not patented, Eric Wyatt's Make My Morning program.
As alluded to in the opening teaser, I don't journal before anything else. I do make my first cup of coffee to enjoy while I'm writing. I also typically shoot for six days a week, not every single day.
I do try to write stream of consciousness, but I'm not afraid of letting my pen rest. When I first started with Cameron's method, I stuck to the "write even if all you have to say is I have nothing to write," and I know there is great value to doing that, at times.
However, I see my journaling as a way to dialogue with my subconscious, and sometimes it's okay for me to let a thought rest for a minute, and then start writing again.
Because I'm writing whatever comes to mind, I often write about my dreams from the night before, what I did the day before, etcetera. Then, as other thoughts or topics bubble up, I'll diverge from the mundane and follow those thoughts.
This is where the real juice of daily practice shows itself: Your subconscious will begin to draw out the things you really need to write about. This is where the revelations or inspirations or ah-ha moments come to the surface, and that's a powerful tool to have at your disposal.
Another way I deviate from the Cameron method is that I do, sometimes, allow myself to be distracted from the practice. Specifically, I will occasionally uncover a BIG ISSUE topic that requires me to do an exclusive and hyper-focused separate writing session, and I will sometimes stop my journaling and do that right then.
I also will, some days, return to the day's journal entry later in the day and add to what I had written earlier in the morning. I will also sometimes return to that day's journal entry to add something from a reading or other source that pertains to what I've been journaling about.
Finally, I have added four sections to my daily practice, each of which helps me prepare for the rest of the day.
First, I write, "Today I will..." and then I list the top three or four things that I am planning to accomplish from my current open-loop task list. This lets me jump into the day with intentionality and purpose.
Second, I write, "Today I am thankful for..." and I list three things that I am grateful for from the prior day. Each day I try to have three things that I haven't listed before, or at least not recently. Gratitude is an important part of keeping myself motivated and progressing toward my goals.
Third, I write, "Today I am imagining..." and then I list some aspect of my life that is either going really well, and I am imagining keeping it going, OR, some aspect of life I am imagining changing for the better, OR some dream scenario that I hope to reach toward.
For example, I may write, "Today I am imagining owning a retreat center where I can facilitate writing programs and offer a retreat atmosphere for other creatives." Or, I might write something a little less grandiose, like, "I am imagining being caught up on all of the video editing for the Million Words Project."
Finally, I close out the daily entry with the line, "Today I am asking for..." Here, I petition God, the Universe, Synchronicity, or whatever sort of spiritual belief you may have, with a request for something that would benefit my life, but seems outside of my control.
Now, like Julia Cameron, I am a big believer in the power of writing long hand. ESPECIALLY when it comes to daily journaling. There is a lot of evidence that writing longhand is very important.
I use my iPad Pro, and my Apple Pencil, to write long-hand into an app called NEBO, which translates my handwriting into a text document. It is the best of both worlds. I still write long-hand, but I am given a text document, instead of scribbles. (And the program works remarkably well.)
Also like Julia Cameron, I believe it is essential that your daily pages be private, and that you actually commit to writing exactly what you are thinking and feeling, without self-censoring.
For today's inspiration, let's hear from the Morning Pages champion herself, Julia Cameron:
"Writing is like breathing. It is possible to learn to do it well. But the point is to do it, no matter what."
Whatever your method of journaling is, or may be, I hope you'll be inspired to approach the practice with consistency.
No matter what.
I share my method of maintaining a daily journaling practice not because I think you should use my method, though you're more than welcome to!
I share it because I believe strongly that no matter what you are hoping to accomplish with your life, a daily journaling practice will help you achieve those important things, help you live more intentionally, and will help you refill the reservoirs of purpose and meaning that propel us forward.
Points to Ponder
If you already have a regular journaling practice, I'm going to challenge you to consider ways to improve or deepen what you are already doing. You may find you are satisfied with your current regimen, or, you may find some areas to tweak. Either way, think it over, or, better yet, journal about it.
If you're not a regular journaling aficionado, no worries. You can always start. You can start small and ramp up, or just dive head first.
And if you're unsure, I will suggest you do a Writing Out Loud-type exercise. Commit to writing, long-hand, three pages about why you are doubtful about having a daily journaling practice. Maybe you'll convince yourself to start, or maybe you'll reaffirm your reluctance.
That's all for this week. Thank you so much for joining me. If you enjoy my videos, please like, subscribe, share, or engage in the comments section. It would mean a lot to me.
If you know someone you think would benefit from these videos, invite them to join us, won't you?
Until next week, let me remind you: Your words matter. Make them count.
In this week’s update, I talk about my own daily journaling practice, which is a modified version of Julia Cameron’s classic work, The Artist’s Way. (https://amzn.to/3NVQ5sN)
And, I update you on my progress in my quest to write one million new words in twelve months.
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