One Million Words

I happened on a post today about a man, Liam Kingman, who has taken on the challenge to read and write three million words in 365 days. At first blush, it sounded like a fantastic idea. He quotes Stephen King who says (and I don’t disagree) “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I am aware of, no shortcut…” Then I got to thinking about it, and discussing it, and decided that while in theory it’s a great idea, in practice it simply isn’t feasible. Perhaps for someone who writes more than I do, but for me certainly, it’s not possible.

His idea is to write one million words of his own, re-write one million words of other authors, and read one million words. Again, in theory, fantastic idea. It’s not unlike NaNoWriMo, where you write 50,000 words in 30 days, which works out to be 1670 words per day. To write one million words in 365 days, you have to write 2740 words per day. Nearly twice the turnout for NaNoWriMo. I haven’t even managed to win NaNoWriMo, which is only one month’s commitment, there’s no way I can keep up that pace for an entire year.

In addition, simply rewriting someone else’s work without any other reason than basically busy work seems like a pointless waste of time for me. Now if I were to, for instance, take a poem every day from an established poet, or a passage from a book, and then write my own work inspired by it that’d at least have a point. Not to diminish Kingman’s ideas about it, but I just don’t share his reasoning.

So I’m left with a couple of thoughts. I really would like to push myself to write more. Stephen King is write, the only way to succeed in writing is to write a lot. But 2700 words a day is well beyond my usual production, and I don’t think I can keep it up for a full year. I can easily read a million words in a year, and that is definitely in my plan, but the writing part daunts me. Even if I cut it in half, it seems like a lot, but they don’t call it a challenge for nothing.

To that end, I am challenging myself to write one million words this year and read one million words this year. The writing will be split into two parts: re-writing the works of others which I will then write my own poetry or prose inspired by it, and perhaps discuss my thoughts about the piece as well, and other writing of my own (poetry and prose and blogging) as well. I don’t know when I’ll begin this; during the holidays might not be the best time. Perhaps January 1st, as it’s a traditional secular time for beginnings. Or perhaps I’ll begin December 22nd, as that’s the first full day of Winter, and the first day of the return of the sun. Or maybe I’ll just start today. After all, if I continue to put it off, I’ll only continue to find reasons to put it off.

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4 thoughts on “One Million Words

  1. I wish you luck on your adventure in writing. I’m glad you found the post and are taking on a similar challenge. Since I posted my idea for the three million word challenge, much like you, reality of the idea kind of hit home and I did modify my goals on my task.

    1st in regards to the re-writing part, I was surprised at how close it make you look at the words on the page and how your mind interacts with them as you then type them on the page. It feels strange, but there is much to be gained from it and I think your idea on the poetry and prose is spot on and I plan on doing some as well. Now I also feel after a few days in, that I made the right choice to tweak that a little bit and only do 30 minutes at the start of my day as sort of a warm up. I think this was the right call for me personally.

    The million total on both reading and writing I’m sticking with and you are correct, it will be a challenge. The writing part will be hard to keep up pace for 365 days. Day 1 which should be the easiest day as you are all set to tackle it, I fell short by 117 words as life got in the way. Day 2 I ended up 47 over at 2,797 and Day three I still have 45 minutes and I’m at 2,800. It can be done, it’s hard, but I think we will both be better writers for having tried. Take care and good luck!!

  2. Even one million words seems like you will be writing continually, with little break to recharge–that being said–I do think that writers need to write–so I wish you happy and healthy writing!!

  3. On re-writing. It is a technique that shakes the dust out of one’s writing attic. In Creative Writing it is called mimesis. It is a very useful tool to gain objectivity and learn to think in new ways.

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