Skill Mastery – 1 Million Words

There’s a saying that every writer has a million bad words in him or her, and that once those million bad words are gone, he or she can write something worth reading.

via Writing Advice #1: A Million Bad Words — Barry Lyga Dot Com.

Scrabble Letters
All those letters waiting to be used.

Over the course of my life, I have written… a lot. Then I wrote a lot more… then I wrote “alot” for a while…

I’ve written, and written, and written, and written, and at this point, I should probably admit I’m just padding my word count.

The million words advice is a bit of advice that’s been around basically forever. It gets attributed to Barry Lyga often, but I think it’s one of those adages that is lost to history.  I do know that different martial arts have adages that are similar, “100 Days of Hand, 1000 Days of Spear, 10000 Days of Sword” for example.  The point is that if you want to get to Carnegie Hall you have to practice, practice, practice.

Some scientists even say it takes 10,000 hours at a minimum to gain mastery of an art or skill. If you break that down into 4 hours a day, it’s close to 7 years, which is another adage for skill mastery.

What does all this have to do with me, though?

Well, when I started blogging, I had the million words mantra in the back of my head. It clung to me, its sticky tendrils burrowing into my subconscious. I even went so far as to install a plug-in here on the blog to keep track of how many words I’d posted. (317,435 not counting this post) It never was at the forefront of my writing, but it was always on my mind.

I have a target I have to hit to move to the next level as a writer, and I’m only 31.7% of the way there.

Now, I write other things. For example there’s another roughly 30,000 words from last year’s NaNoWriMo that I’m not including in that, and if you average 5 characters per word and 140 characters per tweet,  that’s another 566,832 words added in also, but I’m not counting that.

I think it’s best to focus on the words that I actually put out into the world as “writing.” The completeness of thought is as much a part of the craft as putting words out there, and that’s probably where I fall short the most.

Today, I came across this post from Backlight.Com and it really slammed down into me what 1,000,000 words was. It put something in my head that I haven’t had for a while now, a clear and present goal.

I want to have written 1,000,000 words.

When I get there, I’ll raise my goal to 10,000,000, and on and on.

Surely if I write a billion, I’ll eventually write something worth reading, right?

Maybe not. But I’m sure I’ll have learned something about myself.

What do you think?

Do you want to take the million word challenge? It might teach you something about yourself and persistence. It might also turn you into the next Stephen King or Big Willy S.