‘The first million words are never very good.’ says Brian Henry, editor and creative writing instructor who also publishes Quick Brown Fox, the hugely popular Canadian blog for writers.
Without doing the math, I imagine a million words would be equivalent to at least ten novels or a legion of short stories. Couldn’t hazard a guess where I might be on the continuum but the target is a long way off.
If it takes more than a million words to write something you’re excited about, especially proud of or what someone considers ‘good’, then everything prior would just be practice.
And practice makes perfect, in most endeavours, whether yodeling, flying or learning to play drums. Writing as well, of course.
I haven’t yet tattooed ‘just write!’ on my forehead but am familiar with the refrain. Somehow having the message framed this way, at this time, has been incredibly freeing for me. Freeing and therefore motivating. Permission granted to focus on the big picture instead of the worth or merit of each word and sentence in the moment. Self-imposed pressure has shifted. Just get it all down and trust future edits will ensure your work is the best it can be. This is the mantra of more experienced writer colleagues and I’m beginning to see the light.
There’s a dichotomy in the solitary nature of writing and the need to create a writing culture for ourselves. When the bigger world of reading and writing takes up more space in your life, you are ensuring the best opportunities for inspiration. One never knows what will strike a chord, spark ideas or show up as the proverbial needle in a haystack.
I want to write with abandon, cast my net widely and conjure blizzards of prose. With enough practice I may end up with something lovely.
These wise words from Mr. Henry sum it up nicely: “Write. Write better. And submit.”