The (Almost) Breakdown
This week, on a special episode of The Million Words Project...
A different sort of update, as I focus on working through an existential crisis.
Watch here, or on YouTube (https://youtu.be/L9t45Lb4sHg). Or, read the transcript below.
The (Almost) Breakdown: Million Words Project Update for Weeks 19 & 20
Seven weeks ago I experienced what I called a creative crisis of faith. At the time, I utilized several of the life-changing tools I've discovered that assist me in times of emotional, philosophical, or creative crisis.
The result was, I thought I'd dealt with the matter at hand, I'd regained my literary faith, and I was boldly pushing forward yet again.
And, that was true.
Except. It also wasn't QUIET true.
I'll tell you more on this, special episode of the million words project.
Welcome to the Million Words Project. I'm Eric Sheridan Wyatt. I'm an author, writing instructor, and creativity coach. Twenty weeks ago, I challenged myself to write one million new words in twelve months. Each week, I check in here to give an update on my progress toward one million words, and I share a little bit about the ups and downs of my creative life.
The format of this episode is going to differ from what I normally do. I had some difficult moments in the last two weeks, and I wanted to share that with you without the restrictions of a "typical" video format.
So that's what I'm going to do. I expect if you've watched other videos in this series, you'll be okay with a slight modification. If you're new here, consider checking out the other videos, but just know they are a little less...intense? And a little more applicable to a wider audience. I think.
Before we get too far along, I will briefly fill you in on my writing progress for these two weeks.
My combined two week total for new words written was just over forty-six thousand words, which is six thousand words above the minimum pace to reach my target of one million words.
The distribution of words was pretty typical, in some ways, although I did make one major change to my focus, which has resulted in some interesting changes. I will talk more about that in a future episode.
This week, though, I'm going to skip over the details of my writing life and talk about the deeper work I've been doing.
Journaling at the end of week eighteen, I wrote: "Today, I am imagining a point around this time next year, when autumn is fading and the long dark is soon upon us, when I am looking back at next year and am as happy with my further progress as I am this year."
I was, at this point, almost one-third of the way through this year-long challenge, and compared to where I was at this time in 2021, I was quite pleased. It had been six months since I was struggling to kick myself into a higher gear and came up with two ideas, or concepts, to frame my creative life going forward: The Million Words Project was one, and the concept of the Self-Reclamation Project was the other.
If you've watched any of these videos, you understand the Million Words Project. The Self-Reclamation Project is the umbrella term I use for proactively developing habits and practices for an ongoing, sustained, and intentional self-evolution and self-improvement.
I won't get lost in the weeds trying to explain either of these things, at this point. The key piece of information is that I am focused on recognizing a point of contention in my day to day life and exploring and developing ways to address it.
Sometimes though, despite all the progress, despite all the evidence for growth, I feel like the Princess and the Pea. No matter how many mattresses of healthy habits and practices I pile on the irritants in my life, I know the pea is still there.
Most of the time, I can deal with this irritability rationally and logically. "Real progress is slow. It takes two steps forward, and one step back."
And then, there are times when rationality flees, and I'm left with an unbridled, almost primal, emotional reaction that has roots hidden deep with in the subconscious.
Week thirteen of this project was one of those times. I detailed it in the episode called, Too Many Pieces, Too Little Time. I'll link to it if you're interested. The synopsis of that episode is this: The data showed I was making solid progress. Despite that, I was overcome with an existential dread, a creative crisis of faith, if you will, that none of this really matters, and I was no better off working toward my creative goals than I would be lounging on the couch and working in fast food.
The way I worked through those feelings was by employing several of the techniques and practices I've utilized over the years.
I put that crisis of week thirteen behind me and dove back into the work, but then, when I got to week nineteen, and started to write the video script to share about week thirteen, I was overcome, once again, with the feeling that none of my progress really matters.
I hit a wall of anxiety, and I hit it pretty hard. My inner voice was relentless. It was questioning the value of doing any of the work I do, and poking holes in my creative, philosophical, and spiritual framework. There was a lot of questioning of my self-worth and value. And is drained me.
Luckily, I have a method of addressing that sort of thing. I call it Writing Out Loud. There’s another video about it you can find. It’s the update for week seven, called, “Am I Writing Too Loudly?”
I sat down and knocked out four thousand words about what I was feeling, and what the arguments were, pro and con, to support that feeling.
What I realized was two fold: First, when I had come to terms with this feeling of creative existential dread in week thirteen, I hadn’t quite uncovered the deeper roots of the problem. And, because I hadn’t addressed those deeper roots, the issue resurfaced.
Second, I came to understand that what I was responding to with these feelings of dread was rooted in my subconscious, and tied to past behavior. I could talk for an hour or more about some of the specifics of this, but I’ll try to break it down into a couple of bite-sized chunks.
The core of the problem is that for many years, decades even, I was living a very unbalanced life, creatively. I was stuck in my head. I had ideas and made plans for all of the amazing creative work I wanted to do. but I rarely followed through.
I often made the mistake of thinking I needed to do just a little more research, a little more reading, a little more planning. I would do a lot of writing-related activities, but I didn’t actually WRITE anything.
And in the weeks between week thirteen and week twenty, I had started a whole new organization and productivity plan, and I had begun a new initiative within this million words project called, Fiction First, and—and this is the real kicker—I had come up with several other projects, books, and initiatives that I added to my ever-growing list of things I hope to accomplish.
You see, the whole point of the Million Words Project was originally to consistently show myself data to prove that I wasn't actually slacking. But at one-third of the way through, I was also amending the PURPOSE of continuing the project to also using that data to help me find better balance and increase my proficiency toward realizing actual, tangible, real world goals.
The Million Words Project has been so successful at getting me moving again, it actually had triggered a secondary effect: It stirred up MORE ideas, and new ways to do things, and products and books and services I could offer. That, tied in with all of the very deep, very heavy self-evaluation that I am doing with my deep writing in the Life Document project had excavated a lot of new ideas.
When I began to accumulate idea after idea after idea, my subconscious panicked. It was worried that I was slipping back into the old habits. Yes, I was racking up words for the Million Words goal, but I wasn’t making much progress, ACTUAL PROGRESS, when it came to the tangible, physical products.
The ideas were outpacing the execution, once again, and my subconscious freaked out.
The issue uncovered is a lack of trust in myself, to not revert to my head-space exclusivity. The fact that I’ve improved on many of these fronts does not wipe away the decades of having been mired in knowledge hoarding and perfectionism. Or, as I wrote in my Writing Out Loud session, “It is an inner, lingering fear of reverting back, even as I’m progressing forward.”
My anxiety was an inner rebellion.
Thankfully, as I worked through all of this, I came to realize—not just intellectually, but in my felt and experienced reality—that in fact, the methods and tools I have in place are actually working. I wrote in my journal, “The conclusion I drew [in the Writing Out Loud exercise] was that the systems I have put in place for continued growth are working. Not saying they are flawless or that I can’t improve, but definitely something positive and helpful.”
What seemed like a wall was actually an opportunity that I didn’t consciously understand. What I believe to be true about my life is not always fully realized in the day-to-day, and like any other belief, it often wavers and wobbles. By recognizing the anxiety and digging back into it, I was able to actually address the underlying fears and worries. I was able to show myself these things work, because I actually experienced them working. I presented my disbelieve with a tangible, actual, concrete working through of the issues, and I was able to take a deep breath, and get back to work.
And, get back to work, I did, indeed. I did so with gusto. And, I did so with a very specific focus on addressing the idea of increasing my focus on the productive output that is actually seeing some of the ideas I’ve had come to life, and not just remain projects I will get to “some day.”
I’ll share more about that in the new year.
This is the last video I will be posting in 2022, and I'm going to take a couple weeks of hiatus. Writing, filming, and editing these videos does take a significant portion of my time, so I'm giving myself a little break.
I anticipate having the next update ready to go on January 12 or 19.
If you made it this far, I want to say thanks for listening. I'd be happy to hear if this episode resonated with you in any way. Leave a comment, or connect with me via the other methods listed in the show notes.
Until then, remember: Small steps lead to big results.
Oh, and your words matter. Make them count.
Credits and Contact
This isn’t a normal episode.
I experienced a very difficult few days in which I faced an existential crisis.
I thought I would share that with you, with the hopes that my own creative struggles will encourage you when you find yourself in need of some hope.
Link to the episode, Too Many Pieces, Too Little Time. https://youtu.be/ecEp2FPh7Ow
Link to the episode, Am I Writing Too Loudly? https://youtu.be/5NXCygL6_FI
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