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Herding the Cats of my Writing Life: MWP Week Four

Hello! The video recap for my challenge to write One Million Words is posted!






As before, if you'd prefer to watch on YouTube you can find that link here: https://youtu.be/g8kE9B0hemU


And, if you'd prefer to read a near-transcript of the video, rather than watch or listen, that is posted below.



 

TITLE


Herding the Cats of My Writing Life: MWP Week 4


Teaser


If you're anything like me, you have many more projects and ideas that you have time to devote to those projects and ideas. Whether it's creative goals, business goals, or anything big and meaningful in your life, prioritizing, evaluating, and taking action can get a bit overwhelming.


If you're having trouble prioritizing, finding focus, or otherwise lacking motivation, this update may be for you!


Welcome


Welcome to the Million Word Project update for week four!


I'm Eric Sheridan Wyatt, author, writing instructor, and creativity coach.


I've set a goal to write ONE MILLION WORDS over the next twelve months. Each week, I'm going to give an update on my progress.


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.


Remember: Small steps lead to big results. Let's start this week's journey.


Update


Week four is under my belt. As you can see, I am still ahead of the pace of 20,000 words per week. At the end of four weeks, the pace target is 80,000 and I completed 24,886 words this week for a running total of 89,491. That's getting close to ten thousand words ahead of pace, which is a solid start!


As you can see, the majority of the words came from a single category of writing: my ongoing Life Document project. My weekly journaling effort was pretty typical at just over 4,000 words, and I had a non-fiction writing session that topped out at about 2,600, and the rest, nearly 18,000 words, came in the Life Document category.


One reason for this is that I set aside time to work on a client project, which was delayed, and I had some good momentum going in the Life Document, because I find that work to be very rewarding. I applied the time I would have spent on a client's work to the Life Document Project.


In addition to doing no client work last week, I also had another big goose egg in the fiction category. That's four weeks of the project with no fiction being written yet. Not ideal, but I've been making some behind the scenes movements to rectify that situation.


Sometime in the next few weeks, I'm going to devote an episode to giving more detail about several of my ongoing projects, but you can tell from these broad categories I have a lot of different projects in various stages.


Before I started to track my writing for this Million Words Project I came up with an ideal distribution of my writing time, and it looks significantly different from the actual word totals so far.


Part of that discrepancy is intentional, and part of it is a consequence of various circumstances. If, as in the past, I were basing my entire creative self-perception on the fact that I hadn't written any fiction for the last four weeks, then I would be in a much less chipper mood.


A key component of this Million Words Project is that by tracking my writing, I have more than just a "gut feeling" to go on. I can look at the data, recognize the discrepancies, evaluate my past weeks, and adjust my upcoming efforts.


In this case, I know that I am still at the early stages of the project, and while I want to adjust my writing focus to bring the numbers closer to the ideal distribution, I'm also aware of the progress I am making.


The data I have in front of me helps me herd the cats of my writing life. Bringing some order to the chaos is a good thing, which brings us to today's topic...


Topic


I have three file folders—two of them are actually physical files, and one is a multi-page Scrivener document on my computer—that are filled with story starters, ideas, possible titles, characters who I don't yet know their story, themes I'd like to explore, essay concepts, book outlines, poetry starters, podcast concepts, television and movie pitches, and other various "could someday be a project" nuggets.


Hundreds of possible writing projects, and that's not even counting the three novels, two short story collections, and a book of essays I have on my actual "THESE ARE MY NEXT PROJECTS" list.


Plus, I have an ongoing, deep writing, self-improvement project that I am chipping away at and expect to be working on for many, many years. And, I have paid ghost writing gigs that come up from time to time.


In other words, I have more ideas than I will ever have time to tackle.


One of the things I've learned over the years is that my creative life is a kind of chaos. If I don't find ways to reign in the chaos, very little ever actually gets accomplished. Without some structure, even in my most creative pursuits, I'll be swimming in COULD BE'S and WOULDN'T-IT-BE-NICE's for all eternity, with nothing ever completed.


The way I address this in my life is to apply some seemingly un-creative principles to my creative life. They are the sort of concepts you might hear in a business meeting or productivity seminar: progress tracking, goal setting, visualizing data, and accountability.


As I mentioned last episode, one of the big fallacies of my perception of my writing life over the last few years was that I hadn't been writing. Part of the reason I FELT this way—and was SURPRISED when I began to look back and add up all of the writing I had done—is that I hadn't been keeping track of my writing.


During the 2019 to 2021 slump, I hadn't been keeping track of my writing. I didn't have any specific goals for my creative and business writing. I hadn't been able to visualize my writing life, and I not only wasn't being held accountable to any person or writing group, but I didn't even have a concrete ideal to compare my progress to.


As counter-intuitive as it may seem to apply these apparently non-creative, seemingly limiting concepts to my creative life, I've learned that corralling the cats is actually the key to increased creativity.


I once had a writing instructor say that everyone has an idea for a novel or a movie or a best-selling memoir. The only difference between a writer and a non-writer, is that a writer has a chance of actually seeing that idea come to life. No matter how much the non-writer thinks about and dreams about their idea, if they never write anything, they will never have written that masterpiece swirling around in their brain. A writer may still fail to create a best seller, but at least by writing, there's a chance of their vision coming true.


This is true in many other areas of life. If you have an idea for a great app for your phone, or a new product the market is hungry for, or a new business that meets a specific need, but you never do anything but imagine it, then you won't have actually done anything to bring that idea into existence.


In the end, there is no benefit to yourself, and certainly not the greater world, if your ideas never become a reality. If you have an idea for a free, clean, unlimited source of electricity, but you never do anything but think about it, it won't reduce your electric bill or help reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Ideas become meaningful when there is some way to put them into action.


After writing several books and accomplishing a number of projects for myself and others, I have a slightly different problem.


For me, the difference between perceiving myself as a writer versus a non-writer, is my ability to tame the dozens or hundreds of creative impulses, and actually execute a plan which allows as least SOME of those ideas to come to life.


Applying various productivity or goal-oriented strategies actually results in a better completion rate. The ideas I have actually become something tangible, not just ideas in my head or fragmentary notes jotted in a notebook. This, in turn, helps me build momentum and accomplish something more.


Whether you have a creative idea, an entrepreneurial or non-profit venture, a new concept in business, or some other goal that requires a lot of thinking or planning, finding ways to move the process away from the purely cerebral and into a more concrete, action oriented, and measurable activity is the key to getting started.


Then, once you've started, you can take the small steps forward toward that goal.


Inspiration


Taking on a large project, or a series of projects, can be a monumental task.


Breaking that task down into logical, achievable segments can help you get the ball rolling. And once the ball is rolling, you'll find it easier to make progress.


The great painter, Henri Matisse said, "Don't wait for inspiration. Inspiration comes while working."


When I teach fiction writing classes, I say this: "Don't wait for the muse to show up, and then find time to write. Start writing, and do so regularly, so the muse knows where to find you."


And finally, no matter what your objective is, we can't always wait until we've answered every question and solved every problem before we get started. Students and clients who want to write about their life story often come to me trying to figure out what the end result will look like, before they've even written a word.


I encourage them to begin writing, stepping out on faith that starting the work is the most important part. We can edit later. We can pivot. We can change the path and discover what the end result will be, but only if there is something to work with.


So start. Take a step. Give yourself something to do, beyond thinking or planning or worrying. I can't guarantee you will finish your grand project, if you get started. But I CAN guarantee you will NEVER finish it if you don't.


Takeaway


Maybe, like me, you have a lot of different projects or objectives you want to tackle, but it all feels overwhelming. Or maybe, it's one big project that feels too big, too complex, too formidable.


And maybe you've even tried working toward that end result, but that nagging inner voice keeps convincing you you'll never get to the finish line, or that you aren't doing enough to make a difference.


Finding concrete ways to structure your work, even very creative work, can give you the tools to push back against that inner voice. And when you do, you'll find more forward momentum and enthusiasm for your project.


Points to Ponder


This week, I want you to think about that project or goal that you struggle with, but would tell your friends and family or someone close to you that it is an important objective in your life.


Ask yourself three questions: 1) Why is that goal important to me? 2) What are the reasons—both real and maybe not so real—that I struggle to get going or make progress? 3) What would it look like to make slow and steady progress toward my goal?


You can do this as a thought exercise, but I'm going to let you in on one of my best teaching tool secrets: If you answer these three questions in a writing exercise, and force yourself to write these answers out on paper, you will have a much better chance of discovering some answers that haven't risen to the conscious level.


It's a challenge, not to let yourself off the hook. Write with paper and pen, or pencil. Writing longhand triggers a different internal brain reaction, and it is often a key to unlocking answers that are inside you already.


After you've done the exercise, begin to jot down some possible strategies for giving yourself structure. It could be self-imposed deadlines. Daily, weekly, or monthly mini-goals to track your progress. (Like this Million Words Project is for me.) It could be a creative accountability partner who you meet with regularly to give an update on your progress. It could be a detailed, daily schedule to follow. There are lots of options.


The key is, identify concrete, action oriented, measurable activities, and get started.


Farewell


That's all for week four. If you made it to the end of the video, you probably already know this, but for independent artists and creators, it's really important to have interaction so the Artificial Intelligence overlords know this content resonated with you.


If you would, like, subscribe, and all the good things. Engage in the comments section, ask a question, give a rebuttal to my ramblings, offer some encouragement. It's all very much appreciated.


And, most importantly, if you know someone in your life who might benefit from this video series, send them a link and invite them to join us, won't you? As I say, sharing is caring.


You can find information about me, Eric Sheridan Wyatt, and my books in the show notes, along with a link to the first video of the series, if you are joining part way through, and want to know what is going on, who I am, and what this Million Words Project is all about.


Until next time, remember: Your words matter. Make them count.


So long everybody!


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 Four: Written, filmed, and hosted by Eric Sheridan Wyatt among the bluegrass, in lovely Northern Kentucky.


Episode Notes


Find all of my links here: https://linktr.ee/ericswyatt


My main website: www.WordsMatterESW.com


My Amazon Author Page gives you quick access to my books: https://amzn.to/3Ux5X83


Interaction is important to independent artists! If you like a video, song, book, podcast, or other creation of an independent artist, please consider helping them (and me!) out by "liking," commenting, subscribing, and sharing.


Feedback is important. Yours is welcome!


Link to episode one, in case you're new to the Million Words Project:

https://www.wordsmatteresw.com/post/i-challenge-myself-to-write-one-million-words

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