Kyle Willey

Year of a Million Words Update 2: The Situation

As regular readers may have noticed, I announced a plan to write a million words this year and then immediately dropped off the face of the earth.

I still intend to make good on that plan, but I’m in a less than desirable situation. The biggest problem is that a project like this works really well when you stay on top of it, and becomes a monster if you ignore it. I spent most of January and February working on revisions for my MFA, and I documented almost none of my work in the progress tracker I’ve been using.

Today, I went through and conservatively updated the tracker. Now I have a good estimate that I’m sitting at around 50,000 words. That’s not bad in terms of general writing output. I’d have more if I had paid attention to what I was adding and removing throughout the revision process. Because I didn’t do that, I just compared final drafts to any rough drafts I had prior to stopping tracking.

I know I did a significant amount of streamlining during revision. However, I think it’s better to just move on at this point.

Roadblocks And How To Avoid Them

My MFA work was more time-consuming than I originally estimated. Some of that counted for new words and gave me million-word-challenge progress. Some of that did not.

Still, I think it’s beneficial to the challenge to have assigned writing. I’ll need to be entirely self-directed once I graduate in May, which means figuring out what I’m writing.

Getting Overwhelmed

I’m normally fairly good about staying on top of things, but the first part of this year was rough on me.

First, there’s all the chaos and uncertainty of the world. This rarely bothers me because I’m enough of a historian to know that everyone in the past got through it too. I’m also pretty good about building up myself and my support networks to get through stuff.

But we’re reaching an entire year of dealing with COVID, and I always struggle to find motivation in the winter months. This year was worse because some personal/family matters came up.

Everything’s fine now, but the combination was bad for my productivity.

One thing that would have insulated me against this is engaging with my writing communities. I talked a big game about doing that and then didn’t really follow through.

Fortunately, that’s back on the table for me. My local NaNoWriMo group and a couple of online groups are all I have for that right now. However, while there’s only a distant connection there, it’s an unmitigated positive influence that I’m fortunate to have.

Lesson learned: Don’t let yourself go adrift. Stay in touch with friends and create the positive spaces you need to do your work.

Lesson learned: Don't let yourself go adrift. Stay in touch with friends and create the positive spaces you need to do your work. Click To Tweet

P.S: I do mean create in a literal sense. They may not be waiting out there for you. Do it yourself and don’t expect it to happen to you.

Dreading the Work

Daughter of Spades, the novel I was revising, is dark. It’s so dark that I’m not even sure if I want to publish it until I’ve got some other stuff out to build my reputation as a normal writer.

The antagonist is a personification of misanthropy in ways that are hard to describe, but the literal interpretation works. Putting myself in his shoes didn’t feel a great idea when I was already feeling down.

Coincidentally, it worked out fine. Returning to that in my low moments reminded me of how far away I am from that. Still, the anticipation of having to deal with such an unpleasant task was enough to put me off work.

One problem here is that even though I knew what I should do, I wasn’t doing it. That’s just a matter of willpower. Forcing writing that I don’t want to do has never been a strong point of mine, and the revision process is no exception.

The bigger problem is that I wasn’t doing other stuff on the side. Because I let myself become obsessed with the revision I didn’t want to do, I wasn’t working on other projects.

When you don’t work on anything, you let yourself atrophy. I’m very fortunate that I’m still able to put out enough words per day to hit the inflated threshold I need to meet after my break, but it was definitely harder last week when I started writing again in earnest.

Lesson learned: Compartmentalize. Don’t let any single thing become so domineering that it takes over your life and all other writing.

Lesson learned: Compartmentalize. Don't let any single thing become so domineering that it takes over your life and all other writing. Click To Tweet

Losing Sight of the Big Picture

Starting about half-way through January, I was about to call off this million word thing. I told myself that it was going to be a lot more work in the future than I was ready for and would impede the rest of my life.

Then I realized I had the wrong way of thinking about it.

I read a lot of books on productivity. One classic of the genre is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

One notion that Covey, the author, puts forward is the idea of putting first things first.

It’s probably true that writing a million words in a year is not my most urgent goal. But it is important to me. It ties into my long-term development and is on my bucket list.

But this is probably the best year I will have to do it, unless I become some bestselling author who never needs to work another day in my life. Even then I’d still want to teach, though I could probably swing some pretty comfortable teaching schedules if I were a hot commodity.

Yeah, the second half of this year is going to be hard to complete my goals during. I might fail to hit a million words.

But how many could I get? Five hundred thousand? Six hundred thousand? Seven hundred thousand? I wrote two novels last year, besides some other smaller things.

If I don’t hit a million words this year and I have to try again later in life, at least I’ll have the habits and practices I built this year–if I do the right things–to build upon. I can make a second attempt with what I learned and start from half-way up the mountain.

Giving up in January gives me nothing.

Lesson learned: There is no time like today to do what you want to do tomorrow.

Lesson learned: There is no time like today to do what you want to do tomorrow. Click To Tweet

Wrapping Up

I’m behind, but I think I’ll still be able to meet my goal of a million words written this year.

The first step going forward is to resume a lot of my regular writing activity on this blog. My personal blog has some technical stuff I’m really not looking forward to dealing with, but I should fix that up–or maybe even totally relaunch it–soon.

I’ve also started writing scripts for videos I’m uploading to Odysee. When I have ones that are interesting to writers, I’ll post them here. Otherwise I’ll link to them on my @kwilley account on PeakD.

Until then, stay safe, have fun, and keep writing!

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