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The Myth of Not Writing Enough: Million Words Project Week Three

The second video of my new ongoing series, The Million Words Project, is live on various video platforms. Since video one covered weeks one and two, this is the update for week three.


You can watch it here:





If you prefer to view on YouTube, here's the link: https://youtu.be/q1Rfv4A6adw


And, if you prefer to read the content of the episode, rather than watch the video, the near-transcript is down below!


Enjoy! And feel free to leave feedback, questions, or comments!



TITLE


The Myth of Not Writing Enough: MWP Week Three


Teaser


After two years of personal and social upheaval, I was stuck in a creative lull in which I was sure I had been a real creative slacker.


I was convinced I hadn't written nearly enough.


On my worst days, I told my self I hadn't written at all.


But how I FEEL about my creative life isn't always an accurate reflection of reality.


Welcome


Welcome to Week Three of the Million Words Project. I am author, educator, and creativity coach, Eric Sheridan Wyatt, and I've set a goal for myself to write ONE MILLION new words over the next twelve months.


Each week, I'm going to give an update on my progress, and share with your the things I've learned—and often, the things I'm still learning—about my writing life.


Hopefully, these videos will ignite YOUR creativity, light your entrepreneurial fire, or otherwise inspire you to take on a challenge you've been putting on the back burner for too long.


I've been thinking a lot about the ways I sabotage myself creatively. Too often I let the inner critic have more of a say in my life than he deserves.


The challenge to write one million words in a year is partly an effort to combat the false inner narrative. I was perpetuating a myth that I am a lazy, no good writer.


In a minute, I'm going to share some thoughts about that, but first it's time for this week's progress report!


Update


Week three was a straightforward week for me. I met the weekly goal of 20,000 words, with a grand total of 20,733. So I just snuck over the line.


Adding week three to my grand total so far, and I have 64, 605 words recorded so far, which is a little over four and a half thousand ahead of the pace.


As with the two prior weeks, this total is heavily weighted toward the "Life Document" category, which is an ongoing, multi-year project that I started earlier this year.


In future episodes, I'll give some more detailed information about the different categories, and ongoing projects, as well as my philosophy of balance in my creative life.


For now, I will simply say that what you see represented in this pie chart is NOT the ideal balance I envision in my writing life. I am currently a little out of balance, for a couple reasons.


The two most pressing reasons are: I am not currently working on any ghost-writing projects for clients, and I am not currently working on any fiction writing.


What was most important to me these first couple of weeks was to just WRITE. I wanted to regain a more robust rhythm of writing, as a sort of proof of concept for the whole project.


As I move forward, the visual tracking of where my creative energy if going will be helpful for me to make adjustments and bring more balance into the work.


Gaining forward momentum is crucial for long-term success, whether I'm talking about this million word goal, or any ongoing project. The laws of physics apply to the laws of creativity in this case: An object in motion tends to stay in motion.


Equally important to gaining momentum, though, is RECOGNIZING PROGRESS. One of the key objectives of this project—and keeping track of the various kinds of writing I do—is to address the problem of the false inner narrative.


Over the years, I've learned that I benefit greatly from tracking my progress. Being mindful of what I'm actually accomplishing helps keep the nagging self-doubt and periodic pessimism at bay.


At least the inner critic can't convince me I'm not doing anything, if I can point to the charts and graphs and say, "See! I AM THOUGH!!"


And that brings us to this week's...


Topic


The genesis of the Million Words Project came about early this year, in the late winter and early spring months of 2022. I was feeling really low, creatively.


Like many people, the Covid-Era pandemic response had dramatically disrupted my life. I couldn't teach the in-person classes and seminars I had been teaching, my long-term writer's group that had met twice monthly for a half-dozen years could no longer meet, and I lost my day job because the Florida service industry temporarily collapsed due to travel restrictions, lock downs, and social isolation.


During 2020, months went by where I felt like I had all the time in the world, because time was moving so slowly, and every day seemed the same. But those early months of isolation and quarantine were some of the least productive months of my life.


For some artists and creatives, the lockdowns and general slowing of society worked to their advantage. They capitalized on the opportunity to work on their creative projects. But I was not in that group.


I, along with several writer friends and other artists I know, emerged from the first year of the Covid Era feeling simultaneously thankful to have survived the unexpected disruption society, and questioning if they'd used all that extra time wisely.


Businesses, schools, commerce began to reopen, and little by little, life began to return to something close to normal. The days that seemed to last for weeks during the lockdowns, slowly began to fill with other activities, other obligations, and even, other people.


In the aftermath, I relocated to Northern Kentucky, and re-started my life. It was a big change, but a happy choice, and all was good, but as 2021 turned into 2022, I was experiencing a major creative funk.


I hadn't written any new fiction to speak of since March of 2019. Two years was the longest I'd gone without writing new fiction in more than a decade.


"Maybe I'm just not a writer any more," I reasoned.


Perhaps that reaction was LITTLE dramatic, but I was feeling very low, in a number of ways. My energy was low. My enthusiasm was low. I couldn't find motivation.


I was still journaling in the morning, most days, but not as consistently, or as fruitfully, as I once had.


I had ideas for expanding the entrepreneurial side of my writing life, but I was finding it difficult to find the energy to actually develop those ideas and take action.


I had stacks of books on my To Be READ shelves, and dozens of ideas for non-fiction, creativity-based essays and classes and seminars that I wanted to develop, but every time I sat down to work, the mountain seemed too steep to climb.


I had a long-term project that I mapped out the logistics to tackle, but I'd only take a few tiny steps.


I was, to put it mildly, in a depressive creative spiral.


If you've experienced depressive episodes in your life, you know the feeling of the spiral. Things aren't going well, which makes you less motivated to do things, which makes things go worse, which saps even more motivation, which in turn...well...you get the idea.


I am going to let you in on a little secret.


A large portion of that depressive creative spiral was a result of my own misperceptions, and pessimism. My perspective was faulty.


Far from the perception I had of myself as "maybe not even being a writer any more," I had actually done quite a bit of writing.


In fact, when I looked back over journals, notebooks, and computer files, and took an accounting of the writing I had done during the timeframe when I was convinced that I had written NOTHING, I was able to estimate that I'd written something just over 500,000 words.


500,000 words is about the equivalent of FIVE 300-page novels.


That's nothing to sneeze at. Yes, I hadn't met some of my specific goals, and there was room for improvement, but I certainly hadn't given up on writing.


When I silenced the negative inner voices and moderated my feelings long enough to make an assessment of reality, I was able to see there was a major discrepancy between how I FELT ABOUT MY WRITING LIFE and what I now knew TO BE TRUE ABOUT MY WRITING LIFE.


Realizing this was important for two reasons.


First, it allowed me the grace to say, "You've actually done a fair amount of writing. Relax a little bit on all the negative self-talk."


Second, identifying this discrepancy gave me an even bigger gift: Information about WHY I was feeling what I was feeling, and some clarity about how I could proceed.


What I was actually feeling wasn't that I was no longer a writer, but rather that I needed to reassess WHAT projects I was working on, and what I want my writing life to look like, moving forward.


This reassessment took some time. But I radically overhauled my perspective. I began to work out how I wanted to rebalance my creative and professional life to better reflect my goals.


I began to really dig into where I've been as a writer, where I am today, and where it is I want to go in the future.


And, it lead me here, to starting the Million Words Project.


Inspiration


You may be doing more to obtain your creative or other goals than you give yourself credit for. The voice of our inner critic is often so pervasive that we begin to believe half-truths and partial realities.


If you find yourself in a depressive creative spiral, or if you're just stuck in a place of crippling self-doubt, there are ways to overcome the negative gravity of a creative black hole.


And those methods of overcoming all start with being mindful of the stories we are telling ourselves, and making a frank assessment of what is real, and what is overactive pessimism.


One starting point is to acknowledge the inner critic's voice, and then make the effort to build a case for rebuttal.


Julia Cameron, author of one of the books I've used to teach about creativity, The Artist's Way, says this:


"What you say to your critic is, "Ah, thank you for sharing,' and you turn your critic from a voice of doom and gloom into a little cartoon character. That cartoon character can be as negative as it wants, and you can step past it."


Takeaway


Because we often fall prey to our inner critic's harsh directives, it is important to take stock of where we are, and make concrete plans to incrementally improve.


Many times, you may realize, like I did, that you aren't doing nearly as badly as the inner critic would have you believe.


Other times, you may realize the inner critic had the diagnosis correct, but that there are specific steps you can take to get back on a productive path.


(Remember, the philosophy behind the Million Words Project is that "small steps lead to big progress.")


It is important to make a fair assessment. To truly combat the inner critic's voice, you can't just pretend that you're firing on all cylinders if you're not. The inner critic has a strong BS detector, and if your creative plan is to just go around saying, "Everything is fine, really, it's all fine," then these efforts to reign in the critic will backfire.


Remember, the inner critic actually has an important role to play in your development as a writer, and not everything they have to say is wrong, bad, or destructive. It's only when we let them run the show and catastrophize without restraint, that things go off the rails.


If we can learn to moderate the inner voice, we can capitalize on the benefits of having a part of us that can question our creative choices and hold us to a high standard.


Our goal is to tame the inner critic, thank them for their input, and do a better job approaching our work with balance and mindfulness.


We can invited the critic in, when their input is helpful, in circumstances where a critique of our work, our work habits, or our dedication to our artistic vision can benefit from a sober assessment.


Points to Ponder


As we wrap up this week, I want to leave you with a few questions you can answer about your own creative work:


1) How am I FEELING about the progress I've made recently, regarding my current project or goals I have for myself?


2) Is that FEELING supported by the facts? (Here, it might be helpful to list some of the things you've actually done in pursuit of your goal, and, to be fair in listing the good and the bad.)


3) What are two or three micro-goals, or stepping stones, that I can take action on this week, so that I can look back next week and recognize I am making slow-but-steady progress toward the things that are important to me?


If you have a creative partner or co-conspirator with whom you discuss your goals and progress, then awesome! These questions will give you something to talk about.


If you don't have a creative community, you can leave a comment below, and maybe you'll find someone to connect with!


Farewell


That's all for week three. As you know, it is a big help if you like, subscribe, comment, or share this content.


If you want to weigh in on the topics I cover, and maybe spark a discussion, the comments section is a great option.


You'll find my contact information and more about me in the show notes, and most importantly, if someone comes to mind who you think would enjoy this content, please consider sending them a link to let them know about these videos. Sharing, as they say, is caring.


Goodbye for now. I hope to see you again soon. 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.


Week Three: Written, filmed, and hosted by Eric Sheridan Wyatt in the wilds of Northern Kentucky.


Episode Notes


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/3xsT2KB


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!


If you're new to the Million Words Project Videos, you might want to check out episode one, which gives you more information on who I am, and what this is: https://www.wordsmatteresw.com/post/i-challenge-myself-to-write-one-million-words

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Hi Eric, Love this new project of yours ... helpful to yourself & to so many others! Besides Julia Cameron in her Artist's Way book, I've found Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic incredibly inspiring as well. She even discussed an experience in a chapter, a similar experience I had while working on a painting & being totally frustrated with it ... then, suddenly, having a spiritual intervention. It was amazing! I watched my brush in my hand, painting, but I wasn't doing the painting! It was beautiful. I loved your 2 books (In Loco Parentis & the blues and the oranges) ... I will give you my thoughts when I read them a second time). You are such a brilliant writer…

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Caroline,

Thank you for the kind words. I'm really glad you liked the books!

I'm pretty sure I read Big Magic at some point, but I haven't studied and shared it nearly as thoroughly! Thanks for making that connection though!

best,

e

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