There's this thing I do, and the more I do it with intention, the more it changes the course of my creative life.
I share that, and give an update for Week Ten of the Million Words Project.
As always, the transcript is below.
If you prefer to watch on YouTube you can do that here: https://youtu.be/4S6cbwAyLhg
Do You Even Journal, Bro?
I have a secret.
It's not really a secret.
It's more like magic.
Or a super power.
There's this thing I do, and the more I do it with intention, the more it changes the course of my creative life.
In fact, of all of the things I've learned about creativity, and art, and life in general, it's the ONE most important thing, and the ONE thing that most consistently influences my writing, my personal life, and my experience of living.
I'll let you in on my secret weapon, and give you an update on my quest to write one million words in this week's episode of...
Welcome to the Million Words Project update for week Ten!
I'm your host, author, writing instructor, and creativity coach, Eric Sheridan Wyatt.
Each week, I give you an update on my challenge to write one million new words in twelve months, and I share some of the ups and downs of my creative life.
I hope that by sharing these updates with you, I can help inspire you to tackle the creative project you've always wanted to complete, or help inspire you toward that BIG THING project you've had your eye on, but have never quite gotten around to.
We can all benefit from having people around us who call us on to a bigger, better, more creative life, and I hope you find some encouragement here.
Let's dive right in to this week's update!
For the last five weeks, I've been recalibrating and wrestling with balance in my creative life.
In doing so, I've been hugging the line of the weekly target of twenty thousand words. Three weeks just over the target, two weeks just missing the target. The goal versus actual tracker is a good visual representation of that.
When I see the data sort of flirting with the weekly word target, I realize that while I've missed the mark a couple of times, these last five weeks on average have been, well...pretty average.
And that's okay. That tells me that even though twenty thousand words isn't an insane amount to expect in a given week, it also isn't so easy that it comes without effort. And that's a good place for a target to be.
If we look at the distribution of new words this week, we see a couple of data points I want to comment on.
First, I've set a limit on my Life Document work, in order to free up creative and mental resources for other things. I'm shooting to keep that limited to five to seven thousand words a week.
If we switch over to the charts and graphs, you'll see that the big red piece of the balance pie is shrinking, and that's the overall purpose of limiting the Life Document work: I want to keep a steady pace, but I also want my output to be more balanced.
Heading back to the recent numbers, you'll see that I've restarted the fiction work, though this week was a small number week. That's because I actually finished a rough draft of the first complete short fiction story.
Something I may talk about in later episodes, but I'll mention here: Writing fiction often takes longer than writing other categories that I'm tracking here. So, the accumulation of fiction words is slower, and more plodding. I am, however, extremely happy that I completed a first draft of a story, and I'm looking forward to doing more fiction in the coming weeks.
Finally, sliding all the way to the left, we can see that my journal writing has really accelerated, with larger numbers each of the last six weeks.
Journaling is such an important part of my life, and this increase has been an important development. And, it's a good segue into this week's topic.
As we saw in the raw data, week ten was a big journaling week for me.
I've mentioned before that my journaling output is a strong indication of the health of my creative life, and my life in general.
Even though I've always journaled to some extent, I've been journaling consistently and intentionally for about twelve years now. I have a LOT of data about what my journaling life looks like.
For me, my sort of baseline, life is normal, things are moving ahead with something approaching normalcy journaling output is somewhere between 4,000 and 4,500 words a week. I try to journal five or six days a week, every week.
Yes, there are weeks when that doesn't happen, but that's the general intention.
If I go for several weeks without journaling, or if my output is noticeably lower than that baseline, I have a pretty good indication that something is wrong.
In fact, if you've been with me on this Million Words journey from week one, you'll recall that one of the ways I realized that my creative life had stalled out and needed to be revived with some drastic measures is that when I reviewed my journals from 2020 and 2021 I realized just how far below that baseline my daily practice had fallen.
So, when I developed the idea of tracking my output over a range of my various writing activities, there was no question that keeping weekly tabs on my journaling was a big part of the project.
In fact, it's the first column on the weekly tracker for the specific reason that journaling is the most consistent measure of the vibrance of my creative life, and it is a key indicator of my general physical, mental, and spiritual well being.
That's a big claim. I know.
But I believe it.
That's why I said I have something like a super power, or a magical incantation which can dramatically change the trajectory of my life.
Because, it's true.
Over the last five weeks, I've seen an uptick in the number of breakthrough moments I've experienced. Many of them come while journaling, and others while I'm doing other writing or personal work.
There are lots of ways to describe these moments: Epiphany, is one. Revelation. Connecting the dots. Realizations. Ah-ha moments. Breakthroughs.
Whatever word I use, the truth is, much like I described in my discussion of the concept of Writing Out Loud last week, writing in my journal is a key place where I learn more about myself, uncover hidden agendas within my own actions, reveal subconscious factors that are affecting my life, and come to terms with the ways I've missed the mark, and find ways to move forward with purpose, meaning, and authenticity.
Yes, I'm talking about multi-level, integrated realizations that span my creative, personal, and spiritual experience of life.
Every morning, and sometimes throughout the day, I dedicate time for the specific purpose of facilitating this sort of insight.
Does it happen every day?
Absolutely not. There are many times when my journals are mostly a recording of what happened yesterday, and what I'm going to do today. Maybe there's a surprise or two, but it's nothing profound.
And that's okay. Because I know that life is one big ebb and flow. Some weeks are packed full of activity and unexpected surprises. Others are so mundane you're not sure if you just lived the same week twice.
The benefits of journaling are the same way.
However, what I've learned about journaling is very much what I've learned about creativity and general, or the pursuit of those BIG THINGS in life that give us joy and purpose, and spark motivation and dedication.
Here's a truth: The key to journaling is to do it. Consistently. Even sometimes when you don't feel like it, you have to let go into the process, even just a little. Even if it is just writing, "I don't feel like journaling today, and I'm not going to do it."
In fact, as I look back over the last five weeks, there were TWO specific days where I basically started my journal entry by saying, "I don't think I have anything to say today," which turned into an entry that lasted four pages.
Journaling is transformational. It is essential, even.
It's so important, I'm going to talk more about it next week...
Julia Cameron, author of one of the most influential books I've read, called The Artist's Way, said the following about writing Morning Pages journal entries:
“Pages clarify our yearnings. They keep an eye on our goals. They may provoke us, coax us, comfort us, even cajole us, as well as prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. If we are drifting, the pages will point that out. They will point the way True North. Each morning, as we face the page, we meet ourselves. The pages give us a place to vent and a place to dream. They are intended for no eyes but our own.”
The increase in my journaling output over the last few weeks has really kickstarted my life in several ways.
First, my writing time for my fiction and other non-fiction work has been so much more fruitful. The openness and expanding nature of my vision that is reflected in the journal pages translates to my other work.
Second, my personal life and mental health have been bolstered by having some moments of epiphany. Not all of them were positive. But, they were necessary and beneficial.
All in all, journaling on a regular basis has become the central practice to help me as I work toward a more balanced, healthy, and loving life.
Points to Ponder
Ok. I'm going to give you an assignment. This is especially for you journaling skeptics out there. No, I'm not going to challenge you to journal for a week. I'm going to wait for that challenge until I've given you some more guidelines for journaling.
(Of course, if you want to start journaling, even before we get to more details, I heartily support your decision.)
All I want you to do this week is take the length of time that it takes you to have a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, or a walk around the block, and just THINK about the concept of journaling.
If you're already a regular journal user, that's super! Awesome! You rock! I'm going to challenge you to ask yourself, how have you benefitted from the practice, and how might you evolve your practice into an even more robust and meaning-packed practice?
If you're not a regular journal-er, that's okay. No worries. What I'd like you to spend ten minutes pondering is this: Have you tried to journal in the past? If not, why not? If so, what kept you from continuing? Were there any benefits or drawbacks you noticed? What hurdles would you need to overcome to establish a regular journaling practice?
If you do ponder these points, I'd love to hear your responses, if you're willing to share. Check out the comments section here, or on my website. There's links to ways to contact me in the show notes.
Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to share how my own journaling practice has evolved since my senior year of high school, all the way through today. And, I'm going to give a deeper dive into the actual nuts and bolts of my current journaling practice. I hope you'll come back and join me.
Wow, I am so excited for the next two episodes. I absolutely love talking about this topic, and I'm looking forward to diving even deeper with you!
But for now, that's all. I'm trying (and often failing) to keep these videos under fifteen minutes, because I really appreciate that you share this time with me, and I want to respect that.
As always, please feel free to like, subscribe, comment, and share these posts. Your interaction would be a huge encouragement.
And, there's information about contacting me in the show notes, along with some other resources. If you're new to the Million Words Project videos, there's some info there to help get you up to speed.
That's all for this week. I hope to see you again soon.
Until then, remember:
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.
Written, filmed, and hosted by Eric Sheridan Wyatt in Northern Kentucky.