You might remember a month ago I decided to go for a Milwordy. I did a whole post about it. For anyone who doesn’t know, a Milwordy is when you try to write a million words in a year.
I do this sort of thing sometimes. I hear about some fancy new challenge online and it just sounds fun. I can make a little chart and track my progress. I can watch my numbers go up like on a video game. It’s a good time.
It’s also, like, instant gratification for me. If I have one complaint about writing, it’s that gratification is at a minimum. Writing books takes time. Writing short stories take time. Writing a damned poem can take time. And getting any of that work published? Don’t get me started. Years, you guys. Years. For someone like me, gratification is so important. (Not that kind, you pervert.) I need to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Word counts are a great way to feel that way. Watching them pile up is great for me.
Of course, I wanted to do a Milwordy. Especially right now, when I’m working on a bunch of projects that all need a little progress every day. Yes, a little progress adds up, but not near fast enough for me. A daily word count that includes all my little projects and any freewriting I do?
Hell yes, sign me up.
After trying for a whole month, I’ve decided that a Milwordy doesn’t serve me at all and I’m done trying.
Now, a quick disclaimer. Just because something doesn’t serve me doesn’t mean it won’t serve you. There are many people for who a Milwordy goal is fantastic. And it’s great! Good for you, in the most honest way possible.
I’m also not advocating for quitting things too soon or because you don’t like a challenge. Sometimes challenges are good. Sometimes a thing will serve you very well if you give it some time to exist in your life. Even if at first it serves you like a cannon in the gut.
But if we all stuck with everything, some of us would have screwed our lives up. Some of us would be in abusive marriages, shitty jobs, poorly chosen college majors.
That being said, I wanted to go through some reasons I’ve decided not to do a Milwordy for a few reasons. One, because I’d hate for you to think I’m just a big quitter. Two, because I hope that if you’re struggling with whether or not you should keep at something, this will help you make the best decision for you.
To start with, a million words is sort of an arbitrary number. I mean, it’s a beautiful number. It’s a nice big, round number and I love it. But when we’re talking about a million words as a word count for a year it doesn’t work. It’s not the same as, for instance, Nanowrimo. That’s 50,000 words in a month, the minimum required word count to be considered a novel. That being said, let’s do some math together. Let’s say an author writes a novel in a year at 50,000 words. Let’s say she also writes a short story every month at about 2,000 words and maybe two or three blog posts or articles a week at 1,000 words each. To be fair, let’s assume that same author does three pages of free writing a day, maybe a page of journaling. Now, a rough estimate of that word count is 300 words a page. That’s roughly 440,000 words in a year. Not even half of the Milwordy goal and that’s a shit ton of writing. Want to know how I know? That’s roughly how much I write in a year. And if you want to know how I figured out those rough estimates, keep reading. We’re going to get into that.
Yes, achieving a Milwordy is a massive goal, and it should require you to stretch and work hard. But there’s achievable goals and stupid goals. More than doubling what’s honestly already sort of a lot of writing comes down to personal abuse.
I could probably do it, though. I’m not bragging, I probably could write a million words in a year. I wouldn’t be taking any days off, and I’d probably get even fatter than I am now. But I could write a million words.
L.Ron Hubbard wrote a lot. A stupid scary amount. Most of it’s hot garbage. Like, bad. Sit down and read some of his stuff, it’s hideous. Hubbard was able to do that because he focused on quantity, not quality. If I wrote a million words in a year, it would take me another three years to edit, polish and publish all of it. And by that time I’d probably be sick of the whole thing. Or, let’s face it, I’d have lost my notebooks.
Let’s talk about notes now. I, like many writers, take a lot of notes. I take notes while I’m watching movies to review, when I do research for an upcoming project, or just sorting my thoughts out on the page. But notes don’t necessarily take a lot of words. I generally keep my notes pretty short, as they’re just there to jog my memory later. So, when I dreamed of pages and pages of notes filling up my word count every week, I was not considering reality. This Milwordy goal was encouraging me to expand notes unnecessarily, wasting time. I don’t have a lot of time to waste.
Now, I’d like to go back to something we talked about earlier. I have some weirdly specific numbers regarding my writing. For much of my work, my trusty computer does all the counting for me. But I do a lot of writing on paper. And that meant I had to count that by hand.
Okay, so I didn’t count every word. I counted the words on 100 lines and figured out the average. Which works well if I’m writing out a full line.
Do you have any idea how much time it takes to count all that? Again, time I don’t have to waste. It’s one thing when I’m doing Nanowrimo, counting out words in a rough draft for a month. Doing that for a whole year? No way, Man. I’m still having PTSD from it. Try writing out several pages of nightmare details at three in the morning. Then, count it the next day. See how happy you are about it.
Now, I can’t emphasize enough that some people benefit from doing a Milwordy. If you’re one of those people I want to hear about it. Please let us know in the comments below. But now it’s time for me to set this goal aside and focus on what’s important.