Episode One of my new video project is up.
Also, if you'd rather read a near-transcript of the content rather than watch a video, you can do that below.
This is the first of a weekly video series. I hope you'll find it interesting, and maybe even of value.
I Challenge Myself to Write One Million Words: The Million Words Project, Episode One
For the last twelve years, I've cultivated a fairly robust writing life. Two years of pandemic response led to a creative lull. I was worried I might never regain my lost momentum.
So I decided to do something about that, and I'm inviting you along for the ride.
Welcome to the Million Words Project.
Welcome to the Million Words Project, an online, shared experiment where I attempt to write one million words over the next twelve months.
I'm Eric Sheridan Wyatt, an author, ghost-writer, creativity educator, and proprietor of Words Matter Creative Writing.
It's been a while since I produced any video or audio content, so I'm going to assume that most people who stumble across this video will be unfamiliar with me. In a departure from future episodes of the Million Words Project, I'll spend a moment introducing myself.
My main artistic pursuit is as a writer of literary fiction, with short stories published in a dozen national literary magazines, and a handful of books you can find via online book retailers, if you search with my full name.
(If you omit my middle name, you're likely to get listings for the Eric Wyatt who is a jazz saxophone player.)
My most recent book is my novel, In Loco Parentis. I'll post links to my books, and other pertinent info in the show notes, if you're interested.
I received a Master's of Fine Arts in fiction writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and for the last ten years I've been teaching classes on literature, fiction writing, and legacy writing.
Through my business, Words Matter Creative Writing, I've helped hundreds of writers, would-be-writers, and other creatives develop their literary and artistic projects through one-on-one instruction, mentoring, and guided self-publishing.
For two years, I hosted the More Stories creative writing podcast, back when podcasting was only about a third as cool as it is today.
I'm also a professional ghost writer, helping people tell their life story as a literary legacy for their children, grandchildren, and community.
My creative and professional career was progressing with something resembling a slowly-building competence, until 2019. Like many of you, the world-wide response to the Covid pandemic jerked the rug out from under me, in more ways than one.
Forward momentum was lost. For the two years that followed, I struggled to regain my creative rhythm. I felt like I was stuck in a creative black hole.
I found it difficult to write, and fatiguing to do the kinds of deep learning self-development I'd been accustomed to. Like the world around me, my creative life seemed to be on pause.
Finally, earlier this year, I began to regain some of my lost mojo.
Clients for my services began to re-emerge, which put some external pressure on me to get moving. I found renewed passion for reviving—and even deepening—my work with others.
I was also getting into a deeper study of myself, as a person in general, but particularly the role of art, teaching, and connecting with others in my personal development.
But in the midst of this rejuvenation and deep study, I found myself obsessed with the nagging feeling that I just wasn't doing enough.
I'd rediscovered my passion, and even began to rebuild my stamina for doing sustained creative and intellectual work, but even with renewed momentum and motivation, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was underperforming.
I wasn't living up to my own, self-imposed expectations.
I came to realize this feeling of unease was based on two factors.
The first factor was my own perception. I was convinced that I wasn't writing "enough." More dramatically, the critical voice inside me was saying, I hadn't written anything in years.
The second thing that was weighing me down was the sheer size and scope of a couple of my creative and professional goals.
I'll get into some more details of the projects I'm currently working on in later episodes. But briefly: I had come up with some very worthy, long-term goals for my creative, entrepreneurial, intellectual, and spiritual life. But these goals were so big, they will take years, even a decade or more, of steady work to see them come to fruition.
To put these two debilitating factors into a different context: I thought I was a slacker when it came to writing, and the work I was doing on a day-to-day basis amounted to empty a flooding boat with a teaspoon.
I'll address both of these self-inflicted wounds in a later video, because they are indicative of the pitfalls that writers and other creatives find themselves in, so they deserve a deeper dive.
For purposes of this introduction, though, let me just stay that after weeks of journaling, contemplation, and outlining various scenarios—and after hours of conversations with trusted individuals—I came up with a plan to write One Million Words in twelve months.
I'll have lots to say about this Million Words Project in the coming weeks, but for today, let me share with you the progress I've made so far.
For the last two weeks, I've been keeping closer track of my writing activities.
Every day I pay attention to the writing work I've done in FIVE specific categories:
1) My modified morning pages, which is my name for daily journaling, with a purpose.
2) Client work, which is any writing I do as a ghost writer or for a paying client. This includes only new words written, not editing, critiquing, or revising.
3) Fiction writing, which is also only new words written, not revising or editing my work in progress.
4) Life Document writing, which is a massive, ongoing, multi-year project that I will explain more at a later time.
5) And finally, other non-fiction writing, including writing for my business or platform, or any of several non-fiction projects I have in various stages of completion.
I record each day's activity in a spreadsheet—except for the word totals in my journal, which I tabulate once a week—and that tracking allows me to have a concrete and visual representation of the progress I've made.
I divided my million word goal by fifty weeks—because every one deserves a couple weeks off a year, don't you think?—which gave me a weekly goal of 20,000 words.
As you can see, for the first two weeks, I've performed just above the weekly goal, with week one coming in at 23,700, and week two squeaking over the line at 20,132.
From the pie chart, you can see the breakdown of activity:
A majority of the writing I've done the last two weeks was work on my Life Document project, with Journaling coming in second place.
Obviously missing from my two week totals is the category of fiction writing. And that's a whole other video. But we'll get to it soon.
For now, though, the Million Words Project update is this: Two weeks in, and I'm progressing slightly above the pace necessary for successful completion of the challenge.
As I move forward, I'm going to be using this information to not only monitor my progress toward the goal, but also to help me adjust my writing balance to meet my long-term objectives.
Which brings us to this week's topic...
Since this is an intro video to the Million Words Project—and for many of you, an intro to me, as well—today's format is a little different than what I expect future episodes to look like.
The WELCOME section of this episode is longer than I suspect they will be in the weeks and months to come.
What I hope to do is utilize this video series for TWO purposes.
The first is selfish, in a sense. Producing these videos and making my goals and progress public will provide me with some external influence in the form of accountability.
I'll be less likely to slack if I know I'm going to have to admit to that in front of a camera.
But I also intend to make this series helpful to writers, would-be writers, other creatives, and really anyone who has a big project they feel inadequate to face, or anyone struggling to get their motor running again after the last couple of years.
We can all use a little motivation and support. Hopefully, you'll find that here.
And who knows, maybe along the way, I'll meet some new collaborators or clients, and we can build a little island of shared purpose and constructive community.
In the coming weeks, in addition to reporting my progress, I'll also dig a little deeper into topics that I think will be helpful for me to remember, or re-learn, and that you might find valuable too.
Maybe I'll even find a word or two to inspire you, which is why the next segment is called...
The subtitle of this Million Words Project is: Little steps lead to big results.
One of the key points I've tried to instill in my creative writing students and clients over the years is a simple one: Even if you wrote one page a day, by the end of one year, you would have an average novel's worth of pages.
The only way to finish a book, is to start with the first page.
The only way to finish the first page, is to start with the first paragraph.
The only way to finish the first paragraph, is to start with the first sentence.
The only way to finish the first sentence, is to start with the first word.
Yes, there will be loads of editing and revision and other work to do, but you can't do any of that work until you have pages to work with.
A few words become a paragraph, becomes a chapter, becomes Book One of a best-selling trilogy that is later adapted into a critically acclaimed movie series.
Your favorite author wrote their book one word at a time. Slowly, steadily accumulating pages.
Little steps lead to big results.
Maybe you're not a writer, at all. But you have a big project or long-term goal that seems unattainable from where you stand now. Take a few little steps. You'll be closer to your goal. You'll pick up momentum. And over time, the finish line will be in sight.
The reason I'm sharing this journey with you is to encourage myself to keep moving forward, step by step. And I hope I can inspire you—regardless of what you are working on, or hope to achieve—to take the next little step, and then another, and another.
This week's takeaway is pretty simple: I'm going to write one million words over the next twelve months, and I hope you'll join me on this adventure.
Along the way, I'll do my best to share my ups and downs, and hopefully find a word or two that will encourage you in whatever creative, philanthropic, entrepreneurial, other growth-oriented project you find stokes the fires of passion and energy inside you.
It would be an honor if you would join me in this quest.
Points to Ponder
Finally, let me leave you with a couple things to think about this week.
Maybe you'll journal about it, or bring it up as a topic of conversation with whoever you have in your life that you have those really good conversations with, or maybe you'll just ask your subconscious to mull things over and get back to you when it has an answer.
Here is my question for you: Is there a project that you've always wanted to accomplish, but it seems too daunting?
Maybe you've even started and stopped in the past, maybe even several times.
Is there something your inner critic has convinced you that you can't do?
Revisit those thoughts and feelings, and figure out if the inner critic is really right.
And maybe consider how tracking your progress and being mindful of small goals might provide the data to help shut that inner critic up long enough for you to see some real results.
Over the coming weeks and months, we'll talk more about these topics, and explore all sorts of concepts, in addition to tracking my progress toward One Million Words.
That's it for this first episode.
If you've watched this far, you probably already know that it helps spread the word if you hit the LIKE button or subscribe to this content. If you want to continue the discussion in the comments section or connect with me in other ways, you'll find that information below.
Most importantly, if you know someone you think might find this content helpful, be sure to send them a link and let them know. Sharing, as they say, is caring.
Thank you for sticking with me! I hope to see you again soon. For now, remember that your words matter. Make them 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.
Episode One: Written, filmed, and hosted by Eric Sheridan Wyatt in summer-steamy Northern Kentucky.
This is the first update on my personal challenge to write one million words, in the next twelve months.
Each episode of the Million Words Project will feature an update on my progress, along with topics of interest to writers, would-be writers, and other creatives.
The Million Words Project has something for anyone who has a major project or life-long goal that sometimes seems too big to master.
Find all of my links here: https://www.linktr.ee/ericswyatt
My main website: www.WordsMatterESW.com
My Amazon Author Page gives you quick access to my books: https://amzn.to/3Rlv1N0
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