The video for week 16 of the Million Words Project is posted!
If you would prefer to watch on YouTube, here is the link: https://youtu.be/KB9AT22Rjug
The transcript of the episode is included below.
Training Tips (This is Not a Workout Video): Million Words Project Week 16
When I was younger, I had a bad habit: If there was a sport, or an instrument, or a hobby I wanted to try, or if there were a different area of study I thought I might be interested in academically, I would give that new thing a try. But if I wasn't already kind of good at it, naturally, I wouldn't stick with it.
I was like the couch potato, who gets it into his mind to run a marathon. And he buys some new sneakers, finds a smart running outfit, laces up his shoes, and heads out the door. A few blocks into the run, he realizes he's not cut out for distance running, turns around, walks back home, and tosses the new shoes in the waste bin along the way.
I dare say, almost none of us are natural marathon runners. The idea that we could go from a mostly sedentary life to running twenty-seven miles—just because it looks interesting—is silly.
But, if you're like me, you may fall into that same fallacy in many different ways.
I'll talk a little about that, and give you an update on my quest to write one million words in this week's episode of, The Million Words Project.
Welcome to the update for week sixteen of The Million Words Project.
I'm author, educator, and creativity coach, Eric Sheridan Wyatt.
Sixteen weeks ago, I challenged myself to write one million new words in twelve months, and in this video series I give weekly updates on my progress toward one million words, and I also share some of the tips, tricks, and lessons I've learned about my creative life.
For the last dozen years, I've been helping writers, would-be writers, and other creatives pursue their artistic vision and tackle those Big Thing projects they've always dreamed of, but never quite got around to.
I share these things with the hopes that something I say might encourage or inspire you, in your own creative or entrepreneurial interests.
Let's get started with this week's update.
We will dive right in to the raw numbers for week sixteen.
On the far right hand side, you'll see that I ended week sixteen about thirty-five hundred words above the baseline weekly target of twenty-thousand words. A nice solid week.
As I mentioned last week, I have been banking some extra words because I have some personal and family commitments coming up the next two weeks that will interfere with my availability to write. If we look at the weekly grand totals for the last five weeks, I've been averaging somewhere close to 23,000 per week, so my hope is that even though I have a couple of low-count weeks coming up, I will still stay ahead of the baseline pace for reaching one million words.
Looking at the category breakdown, left to right, this week was very similar to last week. The balance was shifted a little bit, but overall it's still a pretty balanced and typical week.
There are two points to make here, though. Part of why I do these specific looks at the various categories is to make an assessment of what is working, and what is not. Now, as of this week, I've written just over twenty-three thousand words of fiction since the start of the project.
I'm really happy to be writing fiction again, and the slow-and-steady nature of two thousand words here and five thousand words there has been fine, so far. I would, however, like to see some acceleration in that category, so in the coming weeks I'm going to be looking at ways to ramp up my fiction writing another notch or two.
The other big change that may be upcoming is that I may no longer have the Client Projects category as part of the word total moving forward.
I started the Million Words Project at a time when I had just finished a number of client projects, and since the start of this million words challenge, my freelance and ghostwriting business has dried up like a damp sponge dropped in the desert.
My instinct is to shift my focus from a general Non-Fiction and Platform category—which is how it is currently aligned—into two separate categories of non-fiction, including a new category that is specifically focused on the non-fiction books about writing, creativity, and self-growth that I've been planning and scheming.
As I've mentioned in the past, the reason I track words is to utilize the data I collect to help me refine and improve my writing life. And that leads us right into today's topic.
The last couple weeks have been a time of changing things up. Shaking up the routine. Sorting out the things that have been working, and finding ways to improve my day-to-day.
I keep track of the words I've written because I had a very specific situation: After the pandemic and a move across country, I was stuck in a rut of WANTING to write, and having projects I wanted to work on, but never quite getting around to doing the work.
I have, as of today, about twenty four books I want to write in the foreseeable future. That's a lot. And the only way to write a lot of books is to write a lot of words. Yes, there is a difference between QUALITY writing and writing in large QUANTITIES. I'm not suggesting otherwise.
But to write QUALITY books still requires me to actually WRITE. Right?
And so, the way forward, when I had hit a low point in my writing life, was to get started, once again. I can revise bad writing, but I can't revise an empty page.
First things first, get some words on a page, even if they aren't great. Even if they will require a lot of work to make them something approaching good.
Why is this the method forward? Because I've learned that one of the biggest points of resistance to writing is the false belief that I should only write something if I write it well.
The perfectionist tendency has its merits. Sometimes it pushes me to make something that starts out "just okay," into something much better than okay.
But perfectionism can also be a major drawback to actually getting anything done.
As I mentioned in the opening, my default reaction to trying something new, when I was younger, was that if I wasn't immediately pretty good at the new thing, I would abandon it for something else.
And, often times, if I was PRETTY good at something, I would only stick with it until I got to a point where I wasn't making easy progress any more. Then, I would put that thing aside and try my hand at something else.
Even with writing, my avoidance of failure often kept me from making progress and my perfectionism kept me stuck.
My first novel took me twenty years to write. Not because I am a slow writer, but because I spent the first several years writing and re-writing the first chapter. I was working under the assumption that if I could just get the first chapter exactly right, then I could do that with the entire book.
Even after I gave up the every sentence must be perfect before I move on to the next one idea, I would write that book until I got to a place where I wasn't sure how to move forward, and I would start over.
I changed the point of view from first person narration to third person and back again. I changed from past tense to present tense and back again.
Each of these changes required me to start writing over again. I eventually gave up on that book, and it sat dormant for years and years.
I didn't come to understand that failure is in integral part of doing anything really worthwhile or challenging until later in life. I actually stopped writing fiction a couple of times in my early adult years, but something always drew me back.
Thankfully, I figured out that the "be perfect or don't do it" philosophy was invalid. I've heard there are some writers who actually labor over each line before moving forward to the next one. Or they write in a cycle of starting at the beginning and moving forward until they hit a wall, then starting over at the beginning, and repeating that until they have a complete book.
I do not operate that way. Those ways of writing do not work for me.
Instead, what I need to do is surrender to writing crap first drafts. Dump drafts, I sometimes call them. Or vomit drafts. I start the book or story where I think it should start, and I write as much as I currently know about the story, in as close to the order of presentation as I think the story will be told. I write through to the end.
And I know that the first draft isn't good, but I write it anyway.
Because for me, I have to proceed with two things in mind.
First, if I wait for perfection, I will never get started.
Second, the way through the creation of a story or book that works for me is to refine, reimagine, and repair the original dump draft through the painstaking process of revision.
Revision is, for me, where the real magic of writing happens.
But, Revision— the way I do it— is a marathon. And what gets me ready for the marathon? A training regimen.
The million words project is my training and conditioning program. It is getting me prepared to tackle the big projects I want to tackle. Little by little, step by step, I'm building back the literary strength and endurance that had faded over the last few years.
And, here in week sixteen, I'm beginning to modify and refine things to help me gain even more of that endurance for the work ahead.
There are a couple of ideas that I keep in mind, to help me overcome the resistance and laziness I sometimes feel when it comes to my writing, creative, and business life.
The first is from author, podcaster, and public speaker, Jon Acuff, who specializes in helping people GET THINGS DONE. He says, "Ninety percent perfect and shared with the world is ALWAYS superior to one-hundred percent perfect and stuck in your head."
I don't know that I've ever even achieved 90% perfect in my stories and books, but I do know that I've reached a point where I would rather write DECENT versions of the twenty-four books I want to write, than to wait for decades to get something 100% perfect, and never get around to writing it.
Don't get me wrong. I still believe in writing the best book I can write, today. And I spend a lot of time refining and revising because I believe quality matters. But I no longer believe in perfect, when it comes to a book, a movie, or any piece of art. The idea of perfect isn't realistic, and it isn't helpful.
So to get myself moving, I also think about what best-selling novelist Jodi Picoult has said about writing consistently, even if the writing isn't great: "You may not always write well, but you can edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page."
If you get a hundred writers in a room, you'll have a hundred opinions about how to tackle the work. I assume the same thing is true with artists in other fields.
There are best practices and tips and tricks to be learned, but ultimately, each of us has a unique path toward realizing our creative goals.
I do, however, think that more writers and other creatives would do well to consider the ideas of "just getting started" and "not being bound to perfectionism." In my experience, way more writers find success with this mindset than those who thrive under a, "every sentence perfect before I move on to the next one" framework.
I share my experiences not as a prescription for success, but as a description of some of the things that have helped me zero in on ways to continue forward and not give up.
Points to Ponder
Maybe you are a natural marathon runner. Maybe you're one of the rare birds who is able to be a perfectionist and still function and achieve your goals.
If that's the case, I applaud you. And, frankly, envy you.
However, if you resonate more with the idea of building up toward a sustained level of creative and productive work, I'm going to ask you to ponder a couple of questions this week. Maybe, if you're game, you'll even take time to write through these questions in your journal or notebook.
First, how aware are you of the routines and methods you use to work toward your creative or other life goals? Are you on auto-pilot, or are you constantly fiddling with your workflow?
Second, if you are already mindful of the various elements of your workflow, or you take some time to be more aware, which things are working well for you? Which things help you consistently and measurably get closer to your goals?
Finally, are there any habits, personality traits, circumstances, or held beliefs that hold you back? If so, are there ways to mitigate or even eliminate those barriers?
Writing through these questions and allowing yourself to ponder the answers is a great way to begin to refine and rebalance. Even if everything seems to be smooth and easy in your workflow, doing this kind of exercise can be beneficial. You'll either come away with the satisfaction that you're firing on all cylinders and reinforce that behavior, or you'll uncover a little improvement here or there that will make things even better!
Either way, it's a win!
That wraps up week sixteen of the Million Words Project.
Next episode, I'm going to do a two week update. I'll explain why next time.
Until then, it would be really helpful if you could help me out by liking, subscribing, commenting, or otherwise engaging with this content.
Hopefully, if you watched this far, it's because you found something of value in this video. I'd love to connect with more writers and other creatives, so check out the links in the show notes for ways to find me on Twitter, Instagram, or at my web site.
I hope you have a super week, and remember, your words matter...make them count.
The million words project is my way of training to accomplish the real work I want to do.
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My main website: www.WordsMatterESW.com
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Link to episode one, in case you're new to the Million Words Project.
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