Kyle Willey

Year of A Million Words Update 5: Regaining Equilibrium

I won’t lie.

It’s not looking good for me.

I spent most of April working on finishing up my MFA program, then immediately hit a wall with regards to my capacity to keep up writing.

The consequence of this is that I’m quite far behind again.

Success or failure will depend on regaining equilibrium.

The Current Status

Right now I’m back to the point where to be “on track” I need to write more than three thousand words a day on average for the rest of the year. However, I suspect that I could get that threshold down quite quickly, and I have some small things that I need to finish and then count (since I rarely count small things until they’re finished), but that’ll be a lot of work.

I also want to go in and update some of the old articles on this blog to bring them up to the quality standards of my current content. That should be a relatively fruitful task and give me something to do on days when I don’t have a new post idea to put up.

I’m also going to work on keeping the schedule going here. In the near future, that means finishing the series I’ve started on the beginnings, middles, and ends of stories, as well as getting back into Aspects of Sand. I’ve got a couple small short fiction pieces that I might start putting up on the Friday fiction spots, though they’re not quite ready.

Between those I should have enough stuff for a couple months of work.

Outside this Blog

I’ve also been working on stuff. The next thing I’m starting is a revision pass on my first novel. Fingers crossed, Daughter of Spades should be in the pitch process by the end of the year.

Then there’s some course materials I’m working on. They’re not quite textbooks. They’re shorter, more direct, and more focused. But they may be something people are interested in, so I’m putting them together.

In particular, I think I’m going to focus on three:

  1. An overview of the parts of stories as recognized by structural and archetypal critics.
  2. A brief biography of Shakespeare, the sonnet form, and his plays.
  3. Guidance on writing high-quality essays that go beyond formula.

I intend to use these in future teaching. They will also be available for public consumption.

Other Stuff

I’m also working on a new game under my Loreshaper Games banner, Exoworld. It’s still a long way from done, and the money/time investment ahead on that is quite large. Some of the stuff that I need to log but hasn’t been polished enough to post relates to that.

It’s not quite fair to say that it’s my largest game project ever, but it’s ambitious in ways that some of my more ambitious work hasn’t been.

At least I’m not forcing myself to write it in free verse.

There’s also Herding Your Cats, which has been the subject of many delays. I am no longer holding to a particular schedule for it. It will come when it is ready.

I’ve also been working on a book on pacifism, which is a passion project of mine. It suffers whenever I’m in a bad mood, and I have set it aside for the past month or so due to the stress I’ve been under.

One thing I need to figure out is getting beta readers and other help on a shoe-string budget. That bridge will have to wait until I come to it. My writing is relatively adept as far as the technical element (when I have time and the wherewithal to polish it), but that doesn’t mean it’s always great.

Regaining Equilibrium

This Year of a Million Words project is giant. When I saw the number creep up again as I was overwhelmed with other work last month, it seemed insurmountable.

But I need to overcome that.

This is going to be the best chance I have for the rest of my life to get a million words written. I am free from commitments and obligations. My health is good. My financial situation is questionable, but not hopeless.

I need to keep going.

How can I do that?

Step 1: Realistically Catalogue Problems

What are my problems right now?

Running out of steam is the big one. I hit six thousand words a day, then immediately moved toward burning out.

Discipline is a problem, too. I’ve been bouncing around too many things and wind up doing the procrastination of engaging in arbitrary low-effort tasks.

But these aren’t really problems.

They’re statements of fact, sure, and they’re not pleasant ones.

But there is no reason that they should happen tomorrow, or the day after that.

What are my problems?

Nothing. My keyboard works, my computer works, my hands work. My brain sometimes works, but it’s certainly sufficient for the task.

The only real problem I have is that I have not yet written a million words.

Step 2: Think Quick

I spend more time thinking about writing than I do writing. Since I spend a fair amount of time out on a walk or taking a screen break, that’s not always a problem since an hour before my day starts and ten minutes every hour add up quick.

But the problem is that it can’t be a segue into not writing.

Planning is good, both in the structured invention process for writing and in the more common sense of figuring out what I’m doing in a day.

But it can’t become everything. If I have to sit down at a blank page and start moving my fingers around keys until words come out, I have to sit down and do that.

I’ve been navel-gazing too much (and perhaps even reading too much!). That’s a weakness of mine.

It needs to be cut down to size.

Step 3: Act

When the time comes to write, write. Don’t dilly-dally, don’t check Twitter. I cut a lot of my social media routine out recently and I barely notice it.

Now I just need to preserve that and continue using time wisely. Every moment spent during writing is a moment that brings me closer to my goal.

Step 4: Cool Down

I need to be better about getting closure.

One downside of doing a project where I log my writing is that I end my writing with numbers.

That’s not bad, in the sense that I have some decent chops if I apply myself, but it’s not ideal either.

“I wrote three thousand words.”

That’s not meaningful.

It’s an achievement, perhaps.

But it’s just a statement of fact.

Proper closure is two things.

Achieving Closure while Regaining Equilibrium

First, you need to think about the significance of your actions. That means being present in the action itself. I may have written three thousand words, but what was it? It was a chapter for a book. Something weighing on my mind is now on paper and no longer burdens me. My blog has another post.

The number doesn’t have meaning, and while the grand goal of a million words is something with a meaning in and of itself, it’s still a long way away.

Second, you need to have a reward. The line going up is nice, but it’s just nice. It’s not profound, it doesn’t satisfy an urge, it doesn’t bring lasting joy.

For instance, once I post this I’m going to have a small bar of chocolate. That’s a reward, and it’s going to be worth it for me because I’ve also predicated it on getting enough physical activity to justify eating a piece of chocolate as a reward.

That’s purely base urges satisfaction, if we look at it from the perspective of my sweets-addled brain. But it’s also a part of closure, and a motivator while I’m working.

Wrapping Up

I’m at a stage of regaining equilibrium. That’s scary because I’m not where I need to be, but it’s also exciting.

I’m confronting a problem, and I will be the stronger for it.

That’s a good place to be.

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