What If I Wrote ZERO Words?
It's that time again!
Here is the next installment of the Million Words Project.
This video covers two weeks when I wrote ZERO new words toward my goal of one million words.
Check out the video below for more details.
Or, you can read the transcript below, or watch the video on YouTube if that is your preference. (https://youtu.be/Y6quS5_0PvA)
The Hiatus Show
There is great value in finding time to rest.
It's easy to think that the time we spend resting, or on a break from work, vacationing, sleeping, or participating in various forms of recreation and relaxation is wasted time, especially if we have a big project or deadline looming.
But just like our bodies, and minds, need regular sleep to stay healthy, our creative projects and long-term goals require us to take a break every now and then in order to allow us the time and space to rejuvenate our vision, and re-energize our selves.
I took a two-week hiatus from my year-long quest to write a million words, and I thought I'd share a little bit about that.
Come along. I'll see you on the other side of the opening credits.
Welcome to the Hiatus Show episode of the Million Words Project. I'm author, teacher, and creativity coach—and your host for this video series—Eric Sheridan Wyatt.
Twenty-five weeks ago, I set a challenge for myself to write one million new words in one year. In this video series, I explore the ups and downs of the Million Words Project, and I share what I'm learning about myself, and about my creative life, along the way.
These videos help me reinforce what I'm learning, internally, and I hope something I say along the way might encourage or inspire you, dear viewer, as you pursue your own creative passion or other Big Thing project you've always wanted to accomplish.
This week's video is a little different than most of the others I post. Usually, my Million Words Project Updates include raw data accounting for all the words I wrote during a week or two of the ongoing project. This time, though, I'm covering two weeks where I intentionally didn't count any words. In fact, I made no plans. I had no short-term goals. I had zero expectations for myself, for two, entire, glorious weeks.
So let's talk about why—smack—dab in the middle of a marathon toward one million words—I decided to take two weeks off.
Week twenty five ended. I was half-way through the project, and I was about forty-five thousand words ahead of the minimum pace to meet my overall target, so I was feeling pretty positive. I had met a number of personal goals and I'd learned a lot.
Plus, this was all happening in the last two weeks of December, so it was a good time to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy the Christmas and New Years time frame.
But, if the project was going so well, if I was learning so much and writing so many words, why would I need a break? Wasn't the steady, relentless pace of a weekly self-accountability process exactly what I wanted?
Yes. Yes it was.
However, I know the value of rest. It's no coincidence that diet, exercise, and mental health professionals all emphasize the need for a solid rest regimen as part of good health. It's not a weird happenstance that most major spiritual and religious practices include some instruction for a day of rest, a sabbath, or a regular setting aside the normal pursuit of life to pause and take stock of who you are in this great, big creation.
On a more practical level, I was reminded of a quote I used in one of these videos, not that long ago: Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. (E.L. Doctorow)
But, having made many twelve-plus hour drives in my life, I know that driving a car all night can be exhausting. Yes, you can make a whole trip that way, but sometimes you need to pull over at a rest area, turn off the engine, and relax.
I knew I was ready for a break.
I wanted a break from constantly counting my words.
I wanted a break from structured days and planning my every move. And, re-planning because something came up and I needed to pivot.
I wanted to enjoy some down time around my birthday, and the year-end holidays, to enjoy some time with family and just decompress.
I wanted to give myself some space, to reassess the Million Words Project, and consider how to adjust things moving forward into the second half of the experiment.
So, in the couple of weeks leading up to the end of December, I decided it was a perfect time to unplug from the Million Words process, and just let myself have some down time.
I considered a few scenarios, including a complete zero-writing idea which would have included zero emails, zero journaling, zero social media. Zero technology, really. And, while I know there are some additional benefits to going on a technology fast, that wasn't what I decided to do at this half-way point.
(I will say, though, after this million words experiment is over, I'm considering a off-grid week or two, to go completely zero electronics. If that comes to pass, I'll let you know.)
Anyway, what I eventually decided was pretty simple. There were no rules for the two-week sabbatical. No complex set of guidelines. It was simple: Do whatever I want to do, and simply do not plan anything in advance and do not count a single word.
If I wanted to write some fiction, I was free to do that. Or, if I wanted to write a chapter for a non-fiction book I've been planing, great...go for it! I still wanted to journal, almost every day, so I did that. But I didn't plan anything. I didn't count any words. I just let my days be my days.
And, honestly, if I was using the target guidelines of the Million Words Project and my daily life rhythm of the prior six months, I accomplished a big bunch of nothing. Or close to it.
And it was glorious.
There had been weeks, earlier in the Million Words challenge, when I anticipated taking some time off, and I worked around those by writing more in the week before, or front-loading a week so I could have a four-day weekend, or whatever. And, I have another trip coming up in a couple months—a two-week road trip—and I'm hoping to be at least two weeks ahead of pace when that trip comes around so I can take those two weeks and just enjoy our vacation.
The decision to take a true sabbatical was very different, and intentionally so.
For two weeks, there were no targets and no expectations.
For two weeks, when something unexpected popped up, I could shrug my shoulders and go with the flow, because I didn't have to rearrange my schedule and try to re-prioritize how I spent my time.
For two weeks, I followed no path.
All of the things that help me be productive are great, because, at the end of most weeks, even the weeks that have gone horribly wrong, I have something to show for my time and effort.
But all of those strategies for "getting things done" come with price. They take time, and energy, and effort. And, for two weeks, it was nice to just let life be life.
Taking a break allowed me to recover from the fatigue of constant decision making. It helped me see the big picture, not staying lost in the daily weeds. It gave me new energy and focus.
I was renewed.
As the first full week of January came around, I was ready to take on the second half of the Million Words Project. I was eager to get to it! I had big ideas, big plans, and big energy!
To use the metaphor from before, I was done napping at the rest area. I sat up in my seat, readjusted the seat back, checked my mirrors, flipped on the headlights, and put the engine in drive. I was ready to hit the road, and find my way, one turn at a time, to the final destination of One Million Words!
Little did I know, there was something lurking just beyond the horizon, just beyond the reach of my headlights...it was something I had not anticipated, and had not factored into my vision for the second half of this project.
There's a lot more to say, and I'll be addressing a lot of things in the upcoming weeks. I hope you'll join me.
As always, it would be helpful if you liked, subscribed, and shared these videos. Especially if there's someone out there you think might find anything I'm talking about here to be useful.
You can reach out to me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or other online outlets. The details of how to contact me are in the show notes, or you can visit www.EricSheridanWyatt.com for more information.
Next episode, I'll be back with some details on how the second half of the Million Words Project leapt off the launching pad like a SpaceX rocket and almost immediately started sending red, flashing warning lights that something catastrophic was about to happen.
Well, catastrophic is maybe a little...overly dramatic. But, I will tell you, I had a week where I struggled...yes STRUGGLED...just to hit thirteen thousand words.
And, almost every epiphany and great idea I had during my sabbatical was almost immediately jettisoned because of outside, unanticipated events.
See!!! If you stick around to the end of the video, you get some of the hot gossip! Whoa!!!
I'll see you next time. Happy writing!
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