1,000,000 Words

The other day I was talking to my partner, Todd, as we commuted on the MBTA (red line represent!) He asked how many books I’d written. I began the sophisticated process of counting on my hands. Nine. I’ve written (not had published, mind you) nine books. Each book takes at least 100,000 words because I tend to overwrite, and then edit with a machete in later drafts. I did the math. 9 books x 100,000 = 900,000 words. Add in all my short stories, the teenage poems, the essays, the screenplay, and the started-but-never-finished novels. Damn. I have written a million words. Well over a million words.

What does this mean? Monetarily speaking, not much. In fact, if I calculated what I’ve been paid divided by the number of all the words that I’ve written I’d quit because it makes no financial sense whatsoever. But let’s put money aside. Having written over a million words means that I am, by nature, a lot less attached to any small percentage of those words, and that’s a good thing. It means I am willing to put aside projects that aren’t working. It means that I choose to write and rewrite until the words in each book are the best words for that book. It means that if a book is rejected, I don’t wail and gnash my teeth forever. Because I’ve got another book in me. I have so many books in me; I am the Sybil of books.[1]

One million words means I write on days I’d rather read or bake or clean the hair trap in the bathtub because I’m stuck on a plot point or I am tired of thinking of physical gestures that aren’t smiles or nods or shrugs. But I power through because one million words means I’ve developed a discipline not unlike that of a professional athlete. That’s right. I’m the Michael Jordan of words.

One million words also means I sometimes feel as though the well has run dry and it is all I can do but grunt when asked about my day. The words, they have been exhausted. I have none. But then I sleep and I find, when I wake, the well has been replenished. The words are back. It feels like magic some days.

One million words means I can see to two million words and three million words. Things I wouldn’t have dreamed attainable seem achievable. One million words means that the little curly-haired moppet who once stood in the East Bridgewater Public School library, clutching a Narnia book to her chest, and thinking to herself, some day I’ll write books, that little girl wasn’t wrong. She did it. She wrote books that are in libraries. She’ll write more books. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll inspire a little girl to write books. Anything seems possible, on this side of one million words.

[1] Sybil was the pseudonym of a woman undergoing treatment for multiple personality disorder. The story was told in a non-fiction book and then made into two films.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.