An open letter on writing one million words a year

2018: Day 1 of 365
Word count 3,010 of 1,000,000

Dear Reader,

Breaking down the goal of writing 1,000,000 words in a year might take a little bit of math. I’ll try to keep the math from becoming distracting. You are lucky that you came to the right place to think about your new goal. This is an open letter about my thoughts related to writing 1,000,000 words in the same year. Welcome to the start of the journey. It should be interesting… it will be a big year for me in terms of writing. Given that I will never attempt an American Birding Association (ABA) big year this is probably as close as I will ever get to that type of sustained effort. My hope is that my big year will inspire others to chase a writing goal. This endeavor is not about setting records for writing or anything like that type of nonsense. The effort is purely to motivate me to actively engage in the habit of daily writing.

Maybe you have stumbled upon the 3,000 word per day writing challenge on accident or maybe you are an intellectual thrill seeker, avid reader, or just an extraordinarily curious individual. Writing a million words in a year seems like a daunting and near impossible task to accomplish. Even writing out the goal of writing 1,000,000 words in a year requires a little whimsy. If you break it down by month one month at a time, then you are dividing 1,000,000 words by twelve months. That calculation comes out to exactly 83,333.33 (repeating of course) words per month. You could think about it in terms of paying a weekly writing tab. That would require dividing 1,000,000 words by 52 weeks. From that point you can start to imagine writing an average of 19,230.76 words per week. That number might seem a little outrageous, but it could be broken down to a daily goal. Each day throughout 2018 you would be endeavoring to produce an average of 2,739.73 words per day.

Making a commitment to writing 2,739.72 words per day would require time for some consideration. Let’s face it writing that many words per day will require a little bit of planning and a whole lot of resolve, dedication, and inspiration. To make the attempt more honest and responsible I rounded the daily target up to 3,000 words per day. Dividing 1,000,000 words by 3,000 words per day ends up at 333.33 days. That means that it would really take 334 days to hit the 1,000,000 words target for 2018. For those of you who are really good at math you may have already guessed that generates a buffer of 31 days. Creating a buffer will be one of the most important parts of the the writing 1,000,000 words in a year goal. Let’s face it… at some point during the long journey toward writing 1,000,000 words in a year will involve a few setbacks, false starts, and maybe a sick day or two. That pretty much concludes the math that will be included in this open letter. I tried to work it naturally into my prose. My intent was to allow a little bit of math to inform the nature of the challenge vs. distracting from how difficult of a process it really would be to accomplish.

If you have the same type of writing habits that i do, then you know writing when you are sick just does not work out very well. Prose generated during a cold is usually lacking, disjointed, and otherwise devoid of quality. That pretty much means the 31 day buffer is really more of a necessity for the journey to be successful. It is not a nice to have. However, if for some reason that allows me to hit the 1,000,000 word per year target a little early, then that is probably a good thing. Keep in mind that writing 3,000 words per day involves producing about 6 pages of single spaced prose per day. Opening a word processing document and just writing 6 pages will require some type of planning.

Figuring out a long rang daily writing plan will require a little bit of thought out game planning and a lot of luck. I could not sit down and write down 365 topics worth 3,000 words each to write about in one sitting. That would be a near impossible goal to try to achieve. My guess is that I will need to keep a rolling list of topics that is about 25-30 long. That list will need to be actively replenished as useful thoughts arrive. Writing a long form essay is in some ways about tapping into at least some degree of passion about the topic. Writing without passion opens the door to some seriously grim possibilities. Given that amassing 1,000,000 words of connected prose will create a weighty tome of my thoughts it seems like a good idea to keep them in a somewhat readable package.

Throughout 2018, I have made a commitment that I will be writing 3,000 words per day. That pretty much means that I plan on working out of the same word document each day and producing regular daily blog posts from that prose. Separating the content by type will make it easier to manage and read. Dealing with the 1,000,000 word document would be like working through a mix of autobiographical prose, fiction, and non-fiction essays with no real sign posting or rhyme or reason. During writing sessions I tend to move from topic to topic with little logical progression. Something might catch my attention and it will generate 1,000 words of prose. That burst of writing could be followed up by some a short story or maybe a long form essay about the current state of the universe.

Signposting changes in direction will be important to avoid confusing readers and keeping the prose crisp and well organized. This first installment of thoughts on my new 1,000,000 word writing goal for 2018 will be created without any section headers or other notations. This is really just an open letter to kick off my writing efforts and to advise anybody that stumbles into this writing montage midstream about the journey and the ultimate destination. Those folks who keep up with my 3,000 word per day writing journey will probably have a much better idea of who I am and how i think at the end of the journey. Reading 1,000,000 semi-autobiographical words by the same author mixed with some short stories should be one of the most definitive ways to know somebody that exists. You may even get to see an unedited look at my short story writing skills.

You cannot hide your thoughts and feelings within long form daily writing. That might be one of the reasons why the original wave of weblogs was so personal and inviting to readers that were surfing the internet for a new style of distraction. Every time a red squiggle shows up I tend to hit spell check (when I have an internet connection), but outside of that mechanism for checking quality these words will pretty much fall as they may on this digital canvas. It is possible at some point that an editor will clean up my grammar and maybe correct any massive mid sentence false starts. When you are writing in long form in a digital method sometimes it is easier to just hit return and move on from a bad sentence. I generally just keep writing at the point. That means that all of my false starts and half formed sentences live on in word processing documents stored on the cloud.

My plan for all of my 2018 words is to compile them in a published form and make it available in a printable format sometime in early 2019. It may end up being a coffee table sized tome. You might think that type of speculation about getting to the finish line will involve putting the cart before the horse, but I prefer to think about it as beginning with the end state in mind and working backward. Most of my writing happens to be a stream of consciousness style effort. I really only know that I am going to start writing and that at some point I will stop. That is one of the reasons that having a list of topics will be so important. Without that list I will end up writing an endless string of disjointed auto-biographical vignettes. That could very well be the problem with my current writing. Having a general goal and a cohesive theme might make it easier to read.

Most of the writing that I do on a daily basis is not really intended to be consumed. I write to satisfy my need to create prose. It is a need that has spanned decades and sometimes can be overwhelming and all consuming. That does not mean that catching the spark of creativity does not sometimes help produce better and more meaningful prose. It does mean that most of what I have produced over the last two decades is really just self-serving and may or may not bring a reader some type of enjoyment or insight. Sure that is probably not the right thing to say in this opening salvo on the journey to writing 1,000,000 words in the same year, but it is an honest and heartfelt warning. Maybe my whole weblog should have come with a warning statement. It does clearly say at the top that this is a weblog featuring writing and thoughts. That is a pretty basic admission about the content the reader should expect.

My personal expectations for writing 1,000,000 words in the same year are pretty simple. I plan on reaching the point of exhaustion for most if not any topics that have caught my attention. For better or worse that means that I plan on deploying and executing a writing style that is a little different from my standard word economic highly direct prose. Everything should be able to stand alone and tell a story separated from the whole. Each day should be thought of as a separate event. A unique sprint toward the goal of producing 3,000 words. Sure that might create a small amount of repetition, but that should be acceptable at this point. Reading in general is an activity that is self started and down by choice.

You should think carefully about beginning the journey toward writing 3,000 words per day. It should be a journey that you embark on by choice without reservation. Building a robust daily writing habit is important and requires having a routine. You could easily decide to write 3,000 words today. Maybe it would even be a good idea to think about writing 3,000 words per day for a week. Moving up the goal from a week to a month or a year would take a little bit of planning and a lot of dedication to your craft. My expectation for this year is that my writing style will improve and mature along the way. Without question the practice of daily writing helps craft more usable words. Writing academic prose that can be published is a part of my standard yearly goals. Throughout 2018 that goal will be suspended and i will only focus on writing academic related prose if it happens organically. Writing at this type of pace will require publishing and sharing pretty much everything. That means any academic work that occurs will have to be shared real-time and it will be a very progress view of my writing efforts.

Academic work is typically highly edited and refined. That is a far cry from sitting down and writing 3,000 words before hitting publish on the weblog. You can imagine that some type of rework may have to occur for anything that ends up being stitched together to form some type of long form academic work. In terms of working an outline and putting things together that is fine. I expect that some of my efforts this year will end up getting pulled apart, edited, reworked, and ultimately formed into something altogether different from the original prose.

Sometimes taking a topic and writing to the point of exhaustion can involve tremendous overwork. To operationally define writing to the point of exhaustion please consider that turn of phrase to mean that everything that could be said or evaluated for a topic has been written. It pretty much means that you wrote all that you could and now your efforts are complete. That is not a style of writing that I typically engage in or have enjoyed over the years. My writing efforts typically involve working a topic until something else catches my attention. You can imagine the two styles are very different and that writing in a more exhaustive way will be a major change to my writing.

This year will probably be a year that involves a lot of changes. I tend to write long form prose in spurts and that type of writing efforts is entirely based on my feels at the moment. Throughout 2018 I will pretty much have to devote every spare moment to writing. You can imagine that will be challenging. Keeping a list of topics to write about will help me keep momentum and ensure that I have enough to write about to hit the daily word target. Sitting down and writing will only get me so far down the path to writing this many words.

Please keep in mind that most of my efforts will be written, but not edited. They are a snapshot captured from a pure stream of consciousness captured in a written format. Some of it will be useful and some of it will no doubt drone on into arcane and verbose prose no doubt reminiscent of Vogon poetry. That truly is not the intent of this exercise, but it could be a direct output of it. With respect to that very possibility please accept my humblest apologies for my failure. I will endeavor to do my best and to bring you the best possible collection of 1,000,000 words written in sequence every created. That really should not be all that difficult to achieve. I’m not aware of any other sequential bulk writing efforts.

Writing today involves using a brand new keyboard. We will see exactly how much use it can handle before the keys start to wear out. Under my normal writing usage a laptop normally lasts about 3 years. Oddly enough the laptop does not come with an estimated number of words the keyboard can provide. That specification does not make the key features list. Technology aside the process of gearing up to write 1,000,000 words in the same year is mostly mental. Good posture and avoiding strain will be important, but the will to write every day will be the most important factor along the way. It will be the key part of the journey. It will for better or worse be a true journey.

Reading 1,000,000 words written by the same author in succession during the same year will be an interesting journey for the reader. My goal throughout this endeavor will be to keep some general themes at the forefront of my writing and avoid approaching each day with a true tabula rasa writing agenda. A general theme within all my writing is the intersection of technology and modernity. That theme typically informs my evaluation of civil society and technology in general. Throughout the last year I have spent a lot of time and effort evaluating, learning about, and coding using various artificial intelligence systems. Writing about artificial intelligence will probably be a key part of my 2018 efforts. Talking about and reacting to artificial intelligence related topics is easier than writing about it. Maybe writing in a style similar to the way I talk would help break down that barrier. We will see which way that one ends up.

Here we go. Buckle up. Enjoy the pose. Thank you for stopping in and reading my thoughts. If you only get to read this first day of prose, then thank you for dropping by and I hope at some point you are able to circle back to the other 99% of my writing efforts. Naturally, as a consequence of my writing efforts my YouTube live streams may have to move to a weekly cadence vs. daily. Digging into artificial intelligence and other technology related news on a daily basis and recording a video has been a good learning experience, but I will be prioritizing the creation of prose over the creation of video content throughout 2018. I can say preference for live streams vs. cinematic daily life vlogging still holds true.

Dr. Nels Lindahl
San Antonio, Texas
Written on a ASUS Flip Chromebook C101P using Google Docs

P.S. I had some thoughts that were not related my open letter, but they may inform my mood during the writing of the letter. Those thoughts are about my comfort during a flight from Denver to San Antonio. The seats this United Express flight were not very comfortable. I would have guessed that the airline would have spent a little bit of time and energy researching seat comfort. The seats on the ERJ175 Embraer REgional Jet are very spartan. They do not seem to have any real padding or cushion comfort build into the design. They also seem to be strongly compact vs. the seats I normally expect to see on an airplane.

2018 Writing Topics:

— Recap of all the video camera equipment I have owned
— All the promise and failures of my first Sony camcorder
— That one with a roadtrip to Florida
— Applied AI: A use case based exploration
— My ode to minor league hockey
— Progress within general AI vs. specialized use cases
— My review of the ASUS C101P Chromebook
— On leadership and the modern workplace
— Short story “The Knock”

Feel free to leave topic suggestions in the comment section. This first open letter would be the best place to drop a topic suggestion. I will try to avoid turning off comments on this post. Over the course of writing 3,000 words per day for an entire year any suggestions are welcome. They might spark an idea for a topic or ignite my passion for writing in general.

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