Pause, Reset, Reassess, and Attack?
Here is the update for weeks 26 AND 27 of the Million Words writing challenge!
View below, or follow the YouTube link: https://youtu.be/TmEuZs3FKyw
Pause, Reset, Reassess, and Attack? Million Words Project Weeks 26 and 27
Let me give you a little context where I was when weeks twenty-six and twenty-seven rolled around. It was the start of a new year. I'd just celebrated a birthday and taken a break from counting words for this Million Words Project. I'd reached the half-way point and was ahead of pace to meet that goal.
On January 1st, I started my morning pages journaling session by writing this:
"Off we go into another year. 50 new years have started since I got here. And I am pretty sure that 50 is more than half of my allotment. It's not something I want to bemoan or belabor. I believe a constant focus on how old you are is a path to premature aging and psychologically-induced decline. But, at the same time, I don't want to pretend that my productive and contributory years are endless. So, here we go into a new year, and a new week, and another new phase, with the intent of progressing even more. Not at the expense of balance and enjoyment, but with renewed focus and vision, and a refreshed perspective."
I was ready to follow a specific and intentional path toward reassessment that would give me this renewed focus and fresh perspective. But I was about to find out, in the words of Robert Burns, later adapted in a song by Randy Stonehill, "All the clever plans, of mice and of men, blow away like a child's ballon."
Stick around, and I'll tell you what happened.
Welcome to the Million Words Project, I'm your host, Eric Sheridan Wyatt. Twenty-seven weeks ago, I set a goal to write one million new words in one year. In this video series, I chronicle the ups and downs of that year-long challenge, as a way to help me make the most of this learning experience, and hopefully share something helpful with you, along the way.
I'm positive that doing these videos helps me learn more about myself, my creative process, and life in general, and I hope you find a little nugget here or there to help inspire or encourage you to tackle a big project you've always wanted to do, but have never quite gotten around to completing.
Let's get started with this week's update.
I'm going to keep the update short, because the topic is what is important for me to share this week.
As I show you the numbers, you may be tempted to protest: Hey buddy! You're going to keep the update short? Is that because that total for week twenty-seven is an embarrassment?
Well. Yes and no. It's correct to say that week twenty-seven was the lowest word count week of any, so far, in this process. And, I was pretty bummed about that. I'll explain a little more later in the video, but yes, the big takeaway is that despite hitting the ground running and energized and excited for the second-half of the project, and hitting the twenty-thousand word weekly target in week twenty-six, I did have a little bit of a reality check in week twenty-seven.
How did the bubbling enthusiasm—and, yes, even though I'm a mostly stoic sort of guy, I do, sometimes, bubble over with enthusiasm, in my own quietly reserved way—but, how did that enthusiasm so quickly turn to a week with a word count thirty percent lower than my desired target? And a full fifty-seven percent less than my highest word count week so far in this project?
Let's get into it.
As 2022 was coming to a close and 2023 was starting, I had a clear intention for how to proceed. I'd learned a lot about my creative life in the first half of the Million Words Project, and it was time to take that knowledge and put it into action. Ideally, I was going to follow this plan: Pause. Reassess. Reset. And attack the second half with gusto.
I actually did a good job of unplugging during the hiatus, which was the PAUSE portion of the plan.
I gave myself the space, internally and externally, to REASSESS my intentions for moving forward, and I reset my expectations for myself, and the parameters of my weekly distribution of words. I developed a vision for the balance and priorities of the second half of the project.
When the first week of January came, I used that time to ease back into the structure of the Million Words Project. I had set a goal of writing five thousand words each week in four categories. I added a new category to the pie chart, specifically labeled "Non-fiction Books." That category, along with fiction, life document work, and my weekly journal total were supposed to be more equally distributed.
This new ideal distribution target would empower me to chip away, every single week, at the big-picture goals I had set for myself for 2023. I was focusing in on the actual goals much more carefully, within the larger landscape of this million words challenge.
And, that first week, I ATTACKED the work, and did pretty well. I didn't write any new words in the NEW category of non-fiction books, because I was still figuring out which of the non-fiction books I wanted to work on, and gathering some other resources. (I have about a dozen non-fiction books I hope to write over the next several years, so there was some legitimate work to do discerning and deciding how to proceed.)
But here is where the whole process hit a speed bump. You see, I was planning the second-half of the Million Words Project, based on the parameters of life I was expecting for the new year.
This is a pretty common way to plan. You can expect there will be unexpected surprises in the future, but you can't anticipate what those surprises will be, or how they will impact the day-to-day administration of daily life.
But, the unexpected surprises can upend all of that.
Just as I was ready to fully launch the new initiatives and refine my focus for the second half of the project, I found out some exciting information. My personal life was suddenly and significantly being reimagined.
Don't worry, the changes were positive ones. But the timing of some life events were being accelerated by several months and that required a whole new perspective about the balance between work, family, and creativity.
Even though it was good news and happy changes to my circumstance, it was enough to scuttle the new planned path forward. And, this new reality meant there were additional time constraints on my daily schedule.
One of the biggest repercussions of all of this change was that instead of contemplating a move later in the year, which had been the original plan, we were now looking to move, sooner than later. That meant making time to look for houses, tour houses, talk about the pros and cons of certain houses, and all the things involved in house hunting. The market is still pretty hot in the northern Kentucky and greater Cincinnati region, so we had to be ready to act quickly. There were a number of potential homes that were gone if we waited a day or two to look at them.
In fact, in northern Kentucky, where we were living and had planned to stay, we were not finding anything that met our needs. That required us to shift our focus and expand across the river, into various parts of Cincinnati.
All of this is why I had to pause video production for a few weeks. I was having trouble meeting the weekly word targets, and I had no extra time for creating videos.
As I'm filming this update, we have a new home, and we are getting settled in. You may notice, the old basement "set" is a thing of the past, and I'm going to be setting up a new space for making videos. There is even the possibility of going back to something LIKE the pre-move productivity. At least, until the next unexpected thing pops up.
I'm much further along in the "real world" of the Million Words Project. About ten weeks ahead of these updates. So, I'll give you a preview: There's a lot of ups and downs ahead, and a lot of adjustments still to be made. It's kind of a wild ride.
But, for now, I'm hopeful that I have a little more margin, so I'm going to try to keep the updates coming. At the very least, I'll check in periodically for a brief word count check.
Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho, said, "The great victory, which appears so simple today, was the result of a series of small victories that went unnoticed."
I'm not trying to predict any "great victories" for myself, or anyone else. But I know that this grand quote speaks to me on a more-humble level. The main thing this march toward one million words has taught me is that the Big Win of writing one million words is really a series of little wins. Every single time I sit down and actually write, and put any number of words "on the board" I am living in one of those small victories that lead on to something larger.
This isn't a new idea, or even a concept I didn't already subscribe to. But every day, every week, every new video, is a reminder of this reality.
Little steps lead to big results.
Even when the little steps are smaller than you expected of yourself, or of your circumstances.
I had taken a much-needed hiatus to rest and reassess my intentions for moving forward. I'd reset myself, and my expectations, and was starting to follow the new game plan when...KABOOM! Everything changed.
Not only did my productivity take a hit—twenty thousand words dipped to less than fourteen thousand—but the sustainability of the new plan was in question.
Any long-term plan requires you to pivot and adjust, and, if you've watched these videos from week one, you know I've been doing that to some degree all along. I was prepared to do so, once again.
This new reality, though meant there would be some casualties. Some things just had to go, at least temporarily. The biggest casualty was making these videos. As my time was constrained, I realized the six or so hours a week I spend producing a video had to be sacrificed. I just didn't have the time.
And even with that sacrifice, there were still going to be weeks where I struggled to maintain the minimum pace of twenty thousand words.
I had to loosen my grip on the entire Million Words Project. Don't get me wrong: I'm not abandoning the push toward one million new words in twelve months. But going forward, there will be a lot more of the ups and downs in the word count columns as I adjust, yet again, to the unexpected.
Points to Ponder
Each episode, I like to wind-down with a thought or two for you to consider, which you can apply to your own creative, entrepreneurial, or Big Thing life goal. It's important to keep focus on the things that have meaning and purpose in our lives.
This week, I'm going to ask a question aimed specifically at any of you out there who have gotten so derailed by the various surprises in life, that you feel lost. You may realize there is something missing, something you feel like you could be doing, but aren't.
This point to ponder is asking you to dig deeper into your past than I usually do. But I'd like you to consider the broad time-line of your life's story, and ask yourself: Was there ever anything I felt a deep desire to do, that I had to abandon due to life circumstances? Was there anything I thought I would get to "someday" but haven't? Is there anything I thought I'd set aside temporarily, out of necessity, that still gnaws at me, all these years later?
If the answer is yes, I want you to think of one thing you can do this week to achieve a small victory, as the earlier quote said. And, if you do that, I'd love to hear about it.
That's all for now! Thank you for stopping by and joining me on this unpredictable journey.
It's always great to hear from you. Leave a comment or hit the like button, or you can find links in the show notes to connect with me on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or at my website.
If you know someone who might benefit from this video series, send them a link or tell them to search for the million words project, in quotes, in Google. They'll find me there.
Until next time, I hope you roll with the changes that life is, likely, throwing at you, and that you'll remember: Your words matter. Make them count.
I was ready to attack my revised plan for completing the Million Words challenge. And then, BOOM, everything changed.
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