Thursday, April 15, 2010

1,000,000 Word Mark. The "Magic" Moment in a Writer's Life

I can't remember who said it, but it was a famous author.

For the life of me, I can't remember his name, but, oh how, I remember the feeling when I read his words as if it were yesterday...

(what follows is a gross approximation at best) "Something amazing happens once you cross that 1,000,000th word mark. It's as if a curtain lifts and the keys to the kingdom are bestowed upon you."

And yes, I did hear angels sing.

I've repeated that story numerous times and been surprised by people's reactions.

For many it brings on a sense of despair. How will they ever get there.? Why does it take so long? Why is the craft of writing such hard work?

For me it was liberating. To know that somewhere down the line I was going to actually figure out what in the hell I was doing was a solace.

Writing is like any other form of artwork. You only get better by DOING.

Look at pianists. They practice 8 hours a day, their entire lives. Why should we writers get off any easier?

And if you are struggling to write consistently, look on the bright side, by just sitting down and pounding out about 500 words a day (that's just 2 measly pages), in 5 years you will be there!

Think of all the time that has passed you haven't been writing those 500 words per day and how much closer you would be today if you had!

For me, that quote was so comforting because I knew that I wasn't on a wild goose chase. That there was an end point to the gnawing doubt and fear. I could suck it up until I got to 1,000,000!

Now long before I got to the million mark, my fear and doubt began to evaporate ("doing" tends to do that for ya), but oh baby, that sweet, sweet moment when I crossed 1 million. That author wasn't exaggerating!

I had actually forgotten about the quote when 1 day I had a write a script to be shot that weekend for a contest and was asked to ghost someone's article.

I dove right in. No panic. No 'what am I going to do?" jitters. I just wrote. And as I was writing I thought, "Wow, I really do know what I'm doing."

A light bulb went off. That damn quote.

After I was done, I counted up all the words I had written. 1,001,520!

It really was like a magical switch.

Sure, there's still so much more to learn, but the basic stuff? The mechanics of putting words onto the page and having them make sense had become second nature. Storytelling was baked into my bones.

And I've seen it in so many other authors as well. Once you get enough writing, critiquing, and re-writing under your belt, you can help but be transformed.

I'm not saying you can't write amazing stuff before that mark, I'm just saying even if you haven't yet, you probably will now!

The moral to this blog?

Write daily.
Put those words on the page.
Practice your craft, because truly, one day the magic will happen for you!

Commit to write 15 pages per week for a month.
See if that alone doesn't give you at least a glimpse into the kingdom!
#youcanthankmeMay16th :-)


  1. What a brilliant and comforting post!

  2. This is a very interesting parallel to the 10000 Hour rule discussed in the Outliers book. That rule suggests that after some point, people reach a level of proficiency and comfort which is a game-changer, and that it takes about 10,000 hours.

    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting perspective.

  3. I was also going to mention the 10,000 hours from Outliers.

    I *think* it was James Michener who said you'd be a proficient writer after 1M words. I remember when I crossed that mark with the same magical experience you describe.