The One Where I Put Fiction First
Hello website/blog subscribers!
What happened when I decided to put fiction writing ahead of everything else? You can find out in the video below!
As always, if you prefer the YouTube version, you can find it here:
And, for those who prefer to read rather than watch, you'll find the near-transcript below.
The One Where I Put Fiction First: The Million Words Project Week 23
In the last few updates, I've been a little vague about my word count progress toward one million words. I've reported my totals and put the data up on the screen, but I haven't spent much time dwelling on the details of those totals.
That's because I was running an experiment, within the larger, grand experiment which IS the Million Words Project.
I made the decision to dramatically rearrange my priorities and shake up my routine.
I decided to put Fiction First.
Why did I do such a thing, and what was the outcome of this experiment? I'll share the answer to those questions with you on this episode of, The Million Words Project.
Welcome back everyone! This is The Million Words Project, and I am your host, Eric Sheridan Wyatt. Twenty-three weeks ago, I challenged myself to write ONE MILLION WORDS over twelve months.
In this video series, I share the progress I am making in my million words quest, and I share some tips, tricks, and general insights about my writing and creative life along the way. I do all of this in the hopes that my million words journey will help someone else out there as they pursue that creative, entrepreneurial, or philanthropic BIG THING project they've always wanted to tackle, but haven't quite gotten around to.
And, I make these videos as a way to remind myself of the lessons I'm learning, and the personal insights I am experiencing throughout this process. The best way to really learn something is to share it with, or teach it to, others. So here we are, in my basement studio, lights on, camera rolling.
I know, I know. It's been a minute since I last posted a video. For the small group of you out there who have been following along from the beginning, I do apologize. I posted an explanation video last week, but if you missed that, the short version of why the videos have been delayed is this: Life Happens.
These update videos are important to me, but sometimes the things that are more important take precedence. There were a number of big life events that all sort of popped up at once, and a couple of those were a big surprise. So, those things took precedence.
But, even more important, in the context of this video series, I had to make a decision. Do I take the time away from meeting my writing goals to make new videos, or, do I stick to my top creative priority first, and then go back to making videos when I have more time.
The obvious answer is, I choose to work on meeting my writing goals first. And that's the right decision, for me.
However, I am back, and if you are seeing this video, it means I have found enough time and energy to at least do another handful of these updates. And hopefully, we'll be more consistent as we push on through toward one million words.
Speaking of progress, let's get an update on my progress toward one million words.
Week twenty-three of the my quest for one million words was a big one!
To stay on pace for reaching one million words in a year, I set a target of twenty-thousand words per week.
In week twenty-three, I had a massive grand total of 32,727 words written. That's right. Across the board, it was a big, big week. The previous high-word-count week was week thirteen, with 25,500 words written, so week twenty-three was another seven thousand words above that! Pretty awesome!
Before I get into exactly WHY that big jump happened, let's take one more minute to look at some of the data on display here.
Looking at the charts and graphs week twenty-three clearly shows a big spike in the ten-week rolling average. And, the current word count, after twenty-three weeks, is just over five hundred nine thousand words.
That's right. I passed the half-way point to one million words in week twenty-three. I am almost fifty thousand words ahead of the minimum pace. Great!!
And if you look to the left, you'll see the pie chart which shows the distribution of the total words in each category. My Life Document project continues to be the biggest chunk of the pie, with Journaling and Non-fiction writing coming in second and third, followed by fiction writing at 16%.
As mentioned before, the writing opportunities I've had with my freelance work have been...sparse. So that only makes up about 4% of my total.
This distribution, or balance, is part of what I want to talk about. So let's dive in.
At the end of week eighteen, I was a little frustrated. I had, at that point, almost hit three-hundred ninety thousand new words, which was awesome. I was almost thirty-thousand words ahead of pace. Which was great.
But, one of several reasons I started this Million Words challenge was to increase my creative output, and a large part of my creative life is writing fiction. Or, at least, it was prior to 2020.
And, at the end of the first eighteen weeks, I'd only written about thirty-two thousand words of fiction.
Don't get me wrong. Thirty-two thousand words is far superior to zero words. On one level, I was happy to have re-awoken the fiction beast.
But, I wanted a little more.
Fiction was only making up about eight percent of my writing life, through the first eighteen weeks. I wanted to improve on that.
So, as I was journaling, I came up with the idea of FICTION FIRST.
I called it the Fiction First Initiative. An experiment within the larger experiment of the Million Words Project. The idea was simple: Set a goal to write ten-thousand words of new fiction, every week, for ten weeks. And, achieve this goal by forcing myself to write fiction first, before any of the other categories.
So, starting in week nineteen, that's exactly what I did.
And, boy, that experiment was a real mixed bag, let me tell you.
If you've been watching these videos, you might remember that weeks nineteen and twenty were...rough. The video I produced for those was called, "The almost breakdown" because I had a little creative crisis of faith.
I started the Fiction First Initiative all gung-ho and ready to go. That first week, the only thing that came before my first fiction writing session of the day was my bullet-proof coffee, which I made and sipped on throughout the writing session.
It wasn't long before I realized, I'd made a big, big mistake.
Yes, the first two weeks of Fiction First were successful. Week nineteen was ten-thousand one hundred words of fiction, and week twenty was ten-thousand three hundred words of fiction. In two weeks, I'd written enough new fiction to equal two-thirds of my prior eighteen weeks combined.
But, I quickly learned that not journaling first was a big, big mistake for me. So, as week two of Fiction First turned into week three, I changed my game plan. Journaling went back to the first place in my day, and then, I simply planned each day with the following instruction in mind: "How do I plan today to ensure I will have time to write fiction, so I can meet my ten-thousand word target this week."
Fiction was still a priority. I was still focused on making it happen. I had just figured out a way to accomplish that while NOT BLOWING UP THE REST OF MY LIFE.
The third week of fiction first saw me hit almost eleven-thousand, so I was doing pretty well.
The fourth week, though, there was a dip in fiction production, and partly that was due to trying to get some of these update videos produced.
That set me up for the final Fiction First week, which was this week, and and I had to really buckle down, push everything else off to the side, and get words written!
And, I did! A really big week, capped off with over thirteen thousand new words of fiction written. A big win!
So. Was the Fiction First experiment successful?
Yes and no.
I had two big wins with Fiction First. I wanted to rebalance the distribution of words, and if we look at the pie chart from week eighteen—in which fiction writing had only made up 8% of my word count total—and week twenty three—where fiction now accounts for 16% of the total—that effort to rebalance was successful.
On a more practical level, I also finished the rough draft of a new book of inter-related fiction stories, and having completed a book draft is a big, big win.
However, not everything went as planned.
I actually intended to produce videos for the Fiction First Initiative as a mini-series supplement to this video series. However, after a number of technical set backs, and realizing I just didn't have time for more videos, I had to abandon that idea.
And, there was that mini-breakdown I had. That was...fun.
But overall, I'm glad I did it, because it reminded me of some truths about priority setting and the constantly changing quality of this creative life.
The quote this week comes from author and speaker, Laura Vanderkam.
She says, "Instead of saying, 'I don't have time,' try saying, 'It's not a priority,' and see how that feels."
Here in week twenty-three, I had a thirty-two thousand word week, and, I capped off a five-week experiment where I focused on writing fifty-thousand words of fiction.
I am as guilty as anyone one of confusing the amount of time I perceive I have with the lack of consistent priority.
Of course, we sometimes have priorities presented to us. We can't always prioritize things the way we want to.
I was able to buckle down, rearrange my life, and really focus on producing words in week twenty-three. That was a time when I could make that choice.
However, in the weeks that have passed since that massive week twenty-three and when I'm actually getting a chance to film this update, a lot of other priorities have pushed themselves to the top of the list. My priorities have shifted, and it has been a struggle to even get time to write, let alone have time for producing videos.
And that is the takeaway, this week. I'm not naive enough to think that anyone out there in Video Land can make a simple choice to rearrange their entire lives to work on the novel or screenplay or sculpture project they've wanted to pursue. Or maybe you have some other big project that requires a certain level of creativity, coupled with time on task and a dedication to seeing a big project through.
I'm not proposing you drop everything else in your life and pursue that elusive Big Thing project. That may not just be impractical, it may be impossible for you. I get it.
Instead, what I propose is that you take a step back and make an assessment: What ARE your priorities, and how is that working for you?
Points to Ponder
In order to do that, I'm going to suggest you answer a few questions for yourself. You can do this as a mental exercise, sure. Or, if you have a close, creative confidante, you might explore these ideas over coffee or dinner. And, as always, I recommend answering these questions by writing your responses in your journal or as a Writing Out Loud exercise.
Question one: Last week, what did I spend my time actually doing?
This might be as far as you get. Here's why. When I work with writers and other creatives to improve their creative output, this question is often difficult to answer. Most of us are busy. All the time. Too busy, right?
But, often, when I ask people what they spent their time doing, and how much of their time was taken up with the few tasks they actually recall from last week, the question is met with a big silence.
There are one hundred sixty-eight hours in a week. About one hundred ten of those are waking hours, on average. We know we spend those hours, and we know we are busy, but sometimes we can't really quantify what we were doing and for how long.
If that's you, I'll suggest you do a time audit this week, and get an idea of what time you are actually spending on the various priorities, responsibilities, and other categories in your life.
Once you have a more solid idea of how you spend your time, ask this: Am I satisfied with how I spend the limited resource of time that I am given every week?
If the answer to that question isn't a strong, unequivocal, "YES ABSOLUTELY!"—and, let's be clear, there are very few of us who would say an absolute YES to that question—then move on to question three:
"What specific steps can I take, next week, to increase my satisfaction with how I spend my time?"
Notice, I didn't say, "What can I do next week to be fully satisfied with how I spend my time." Rather, I'm suggesting you look for small, incremental steps you can make.
Getting to a point of deeper satisfaction with how I am conducting my life and keeping my creative life a priority is the ENTIRE POINT of the Million Words Project. Every week, I am making an assessment of how I did last week, and trying to find ways to improve myself in the week to come.
Some weeks, like in week twenty-three, it's a big home run.
Other weeks, not so much. But I can tell you, even as I was getting closer and closer to week twenty-five, the half-way point of this year-long experiment, I am so much more satisfied with the balance in my life than I have been in several years.
Asking yourself these questions, might help you head in that direction.
That's it. Week twenty-three is in the books, and we are heading full-steam into the half-way marker for the Million Words Project.
I'm looking forward to sharing that with you, in the coming weeks. And, for the die-hard fans out there, don't worry: Even if I have to bump the production of weekly, or nearly weekly, videos to a lower priority, I will periodically come back to these social media and video hosting channels to update my progress...
Until then, if you find this content valuable, it would be swell if you could hit the "like" or "thumbs up" and share this with anyone who you think might be interested.
Sharing, as they say, is caring!
If you have comments or questions, leave a comment or check out the links in the show notes for ways to get ahold of me. I have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Would be happy to hear from you.
And, there's lots of information about me on my website: WordsMatterESW.com or EricSheridanWyatt.com.
Thanks for joining me, and know that I appreciate your participation. Have a great week, and remember: Your words matter. Make them count.
An experiment within the experiment! I decided to put FICTION first, and here's what happened!
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