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The Life You Save May Be Your Own

This is part two of three about the importance of journaling consistently, along with the Million Words Project update for week eleven.

Watch here, or follow the YouTube link below, if you prefer. (A transcript is included below if you prefer to read rather than watch.



YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/YhtDj2hq8jM

I’ve recently added a “Buy Me a Cup of Coffee” account to my links. This allows you to leave a “tip” if you’d like to support my writing and other creative endeavors.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/ericswyatt

 

Episode Transcript


TITLE

The Life You Save May Be Your Own: MWP Week 11

Teaser

This? This is one of my journals, from the last couple of years.

My goal is to write every morning, six times a week, in a journal like this one.

Over the years, I've filled dozens of these books with the thoughts of a creative writer, and human being.

Reviewing these journal volumes is a great way to look back at what was going on in life, recall lost ideas, and come to terms with things that once seemed incomprehensible.

And, there were a couple times, when this... saved my life.

I want to talk to you again this week about journaling, and give you an update on my progress toward writing one million words. Let's get started.

Welcome

Hey! You made it back! It's good to see you.

This is the Million Words Project, in which I have challenged myself to write ONE MILLION new words over twelve months. We are now ELEVEN weeks into the project, which is pretty exciting. We are creeping up on being one quarter of the way done!

Each week, I give an update of my progress, and share some of the ups and downs of the challenge, and talk about the creative life in general.

Along the way, I share things I hope will inspire you, or support you, as you pursue the BIG THINGS in your life that make you excited, and that inject your life with the electric spark of purpose and meaning.

I believe small steps lead to big results. If you're already making great strides, awesome!! Keep it up.

But if you find yourself stalled out or unsure of your next move, I hope something I say in this video series will be a resource for you re-igniting your creative, entrepreneurial, or philanthropic project.

Let's jump into this week's update, shall we?

Update

Week eleven is in the books. I came in just a tad over the weekly target. Twenty-six words over, to be precise.

On the client project front, I am STILL waiting for a go-ahead for what looks like it might be the last client project of the year. Which is disappointing to my bank account, but that's how the freelance ball bounces, sometimes.

The rest of the numbers look pretty good, even though it was a baseline sort of week, as far as word count goes. There was a nice balance with three of the four active categories all hovering in the six thousand word neighborhood.

And, after finishing new fiction story number one last week, and taking a little break to conceptualize the next story, I jumped in and wrote about twenty-five hundred new words of fiction.

Jumping over to the graphs, we'll note that I'm still about twelve thousand words ahead of the pace, after eleven weeks.

And, the big red section of the cumulative totals shown in the pie chart—which signifies the percentage of the new words have been in the Life Document category—has been declining the last few weeks, and is now heading below fifty percent.

My goal is to have the Life Document be somewhere in the thirty percent range, overall, so we are gradually moving back that direction as I throttle some of that work to make space for other writing.

I've taken what was an average of fourteen thousand words per week in the Life Document project for the first six weeks, and cut it in half, averaging around seven thousand words per week for the last five weeks.

Doing this has allowed me to shift some time back to reading and some other creative-related work that doesn't include new words written. But, over the last few weeks some of that balance has shifted to my daily journal efforts.

Maybe you don't journal daily, or regularly, and you're wondering why this is important. I talked a little about it in last week's update, so if you missed it, check out that episode. I'll put a link in the show notes, along with the other links, below.

Recently this big bump in my daily journaling has yielded some magnificent results. There are a lot of moving pieces to my life, beyond just writing twenty thousand new words each week. My daily journaling practice has been a significant source of support throughout my life.

And THAT brings us to this week's topic.

Topic

Part of my Life Document Project is re-reading, transcribing, and annotating my old journals, and I've realized there has been a real evolution of the practice that I've undergone. I thought it might be interesting to talk about the kinds of journaling I've done, and where I am now.

Now, I'm not going to include the countless times throughout my K through 12 education one teacher or another assigned us a "journaling" task. I honestly never liked those in-class journaling assignments, mostly because I knew the journals weren't private, and also because my handwriting was bad, so I always got points deducted.

Plus, among the thousands of pages of random documents I still have from various schools, classes, and conferences, one thing I DON'T have, as far as I can tell, is any example of one of those "journal assignments."

The first real journal I have dates to my Senior year of high school, and I also have several from my college years.

By my last year of high school, I was starting to feel a tug toward a literary life, and I knew a lot of famous writers kept detailed journals packed full of their writerly wisdom. They were so good at it, after their deaths their journals would be published as great works of literature in their own right.

So I figured, I probably should get started on that, so one day, my collected papers could serve to enlighten a new generation.

Sadly, the journals Young Eric kept in those years were NOT the sort of things that great wisdom comes from.

Especially in the first few years, I struggled to have something to say, or at least to find the time to write it down. I can't tell you how many times over the last year I've yelled at my younger self, "DON'T JUST SAY YOU HAVE SOMETHING YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT ACTUALLY DO IT!!!"

Because, I used to often write, "Oh, something really big happened today, but I'll write about it later," or, "I've been thinking about this thing a lot, and I'm sure I'll write about it soon," but guess what? I never wrote about it.

As now-Old Eric, looking back at my old journals and uncovering some interesting revelations about my teenage and young adult years, I can tell you it would be nice if Young Eric would have actually put some of those thoughts on paper. But, here we are...

My early journals were barely a step above a "dear diary" type journal, which most of us are familiar with. There were some actual meaningful passages here and there, scattered among the sort of drudgery of the day to day.

But, I didn't have any real SYSTEM for journaling at that time. And I was very inconsistent. So, the actual value of those pages is less than it could have been.

Don't get me wrong. It's informative and insightful to go back to those pages, and I'm glad I at least have SOME journals to reference, even if they weren't great literary works all to themselves.

Next, my journal morphed into something more fluid and undefined. I had an old leather bound accounts book that I utilized for a journal for a while. My writings weren't consistent, though maybe more frequent. However, that journal was kind of a catch-all.

There were normal journal entries, but I also mixed in bits of fiction and poetry, and quotes of philosophy and theology. Basically anything I was writing, thinking, studying, or pondering that wasn't ACTUAL college course work, I kept it in that book.

There would be two pages about my breakup with my first college girlfriend, followed by a scene from a novel I started but never wrote, followed by an attempt at poetry, and maybe a song lyric. It's kind of a mess.

It was fruitful. A couple of the stories I later published had a START in that journal, but it was still really unfocused.

As I transitioned into "adult life" there were a lot of things that distracted me from a daily journaling habit. Little life events like graduating college, moving cross-country twice, getting married, starting my career as an elementary school teacher, switching careers two more times, and going to graduate school for my Master's of Fine Arts.

During the next phase of life, I started journaling at least a half dozen times, with some first line that was similar to this: "It's been a while, but I'm going to try to do better, and journal more consistently."

And, much like my diet and exercise regimen, I would start out going strong for a while, and then miss a week, and then two, and before I knew it, I was buying another journal and writing, "Well, it's been a while, but I'm going to try to do better..."

Again, I really wish I'd been more consistent, because there were a lot of things that happened in those years that I'd love to investigate with a little more detail as I look back at my life. But, the flip side of the coin is I at least have SOME record, spotty though it is, to look back on.

And, my journaling was much more interior and less a catch all for every scrap of philosophy or attempt at being artsy. So that was a nice improvement. My earlier journals had been a lot of exterior and "created art" posts, and they were short on the interior thoughts, feelings, experiences of young-Eric.

These middle-years pages have more of the interior life that is actually beneficial for me to re-consider as I look back over decades of writings. But there are still some enormous gaps that were either lost, because I kept starting new journals and misplacing old ones, or they were just never written at all.

It wasn't until 2011 when I read Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, that I began to journal more consistently, and with a prescribed system.

Since 2011 I've filled about 28 volumes of journals, like these, cover to cover. That's about three per year. Handwritten journals. Each about fifty-thousand words. That's one point four million words or so since mid-2011.

My consistency has waned, a bit. If I were doing a consistent three pages a day, I would actually be averaging four volumes per year. (I know this because I've studied the patterns over the last two years.)

There have been times when I only did my pages two or three times a week, and the occasional three or four week stretch where I've let the journal go fallow.

2015 was a rough year, and it had a lot of journaling gaps. 2019 was almost all contained in a single journal. There are other instances where I've not been super consistent. However, I have a journal volume that covers every month since June of 2011. And most of the time, it's detailed, useful, and one of the biggest secret powers I have in my creative, personal, and spiritual lives.

My journaling has become a conversation with myself, and a conversation with my subconscious, and a conversation with the Created Universe. Yes. That sounds a little "Woo woo," but if you remember two weeks ago, when I talked about Writing Out Loud—that is, using writing to process what it is I think, feel, and know about the world—well, on of the purposes of my morning writing is to help facilitate that insight and wisdom.

It's been the most influential thing to help me grow, change, and improve. And, a couple times, it's even saved my life.

Over ten years, the my daily ritual has evolved. I've come up with a very specific and intentional journaling practice. And I'm going to share the details of that, next week, in the last of this trilogy of episodes about journaling.

Inspiration

I'd like to share a quote from Julia Cameron, who I mentioned earlier.

“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.”

I have a lot of ways to gauge my mental, spiritual, and creative health: The best barometer of how healthy I am, is how healthy my journal pages are.

I can go back, even to those earliest journals, and see patterns that would rear their head for the next thirty years. And I can see little glimmers of hope in there as well.

The last few weeks, my journal volume has swelled, and with good reason: I've been in an insanely creative and energetic mood. That's why I wanted to share this with you, to encourage you to look at your own journaling practice, if you have one, and to encourage you to develop one if you don't yet.

Takeaway

There have been two, specific times in my life when I was unsure how to move forward. Things were dark. They were bleak. And I didn't see a way out.

Maybe it is hyperbole to say this...saved my life. But I know that journaling, and writing out loud as I've discussed before, both played a major role in fighting my way out of what felt like the relentless tug of a black hole.

What is not hyperbole is this: Journaling, writing out loud, and writing in general have been important tools in my maturing, growing, and learning about myself, and others.

Consistent journaling, since 2011, has catapulted me so much further down the road of life than I would have ever made it, without it.

If you already have a journaling practice, it would be great to hear from you. Do you feel the same about your practice? Has it radically changed your life?

And if you don't have a consistent journaling system, I'm going to give you a really simple assignment in the points to ponder, to get your feet wet.

Points to Ponder

Here is a very simple pre-journaling exercise. It only takes two minutes. But I want you to do it every day for six days.

On a piece of paper, it could be the long receipt you got at Walgreens or CVS even though all you bought was a pack of gum.

On the paper, write out the top three things that happened to you yesterday. Just a bulleted list. No need to elaborate.

Next, list the top three things you are anticipating about today.

Finally, what is one big question on your mind, right that second. Could be anything from the meaning of life, to why do the people across the street trim their bushes in THAT shape?

Three from yesterday. Three for today. And one big question that's on your mind.

That's it.

That's the assignment.

Farewell

You made it to the end of another update!! You rock!

I feel like these have been going a bit long, but I have so many things I want to share. Every topic becomes a series!!

So, let's keep the farewell brief. You know all about liking, sharing, commenting, subscribing...all those things that help content creators out.

If you know anyone in your life who might benefit from these episodes, invite them to join us. The more the merrier.

You can contact me in comments, or you can see the show notes for ways to connect with me on the various social platforms.

That's all for now. I appreciate you sharing your time with me.

Until next time, 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.

Episode Notes

My goal is to write every morning, six times a week, in a journal like this one.

Over the years, I've filled dozens of these books with the thoughts of a creative writer, and human being.

Reviewing these journal volumes is a great way to look back at what was going on in life, recall lost ideas, and come to terms with things that once seemed incomprehensible.

And, there were a couple times, when this... saved my life.

I want to talk to you again this week about journaling, and give you an update on my progress toward writing one million words.

*****

The title of today’s episode is a reference to a short story of the same name by Flannery O’Connor, in her short fiction collection: A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Here is a link to Flannery O’Connor’s author page at Amazon*: https://amzn.to/3U5MieI

*****

I’ve recently added a “Buy Me a Cup of Coffee” account to my links. This allows you to leave a “tip” if you’d like to support my writing and other creative endeavors.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/ericswyatt

*****

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!

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

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

*Amazon links provided may be affiliate links that earn me commission, while adding no additional cost to you.

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