No matter what you got your mom for mother’s day, it’s not as cool as what my kids got me.
I have wanted a unicycle for years. I was always delighted to see one-wheel riders in parades and shows. Seeing a unicycle for sale made me sigh wistfully. I watched videos on YouTube and thought “someday…”
Then I came across this quote.
It made me think about what I was capable of. And then I realized why I’d never bought myself a unicycle and why I’d never tried to ride one.
For twenty-five years, I lived with a partner who didn’t think I was capable of anything. He didn’t think I could be a successful writer, or a good mother, or a skilled editor, or an inspiring teacher. Even when I clearly was all those things, he insisted I was not. He second-guessed every independent decision I made and never once told me he was proud of me. When we divorced, I told him I’d be fine. He snorted, “No, you won’t.”
But I am. I am more than fine. In the past few years, I’ve learned just how capable I am on my own. I sold my house and bought another. I dealt with evil realtors and surly bankers and the odd rules of court. My son needed surgery at a special clinic in another state, so I arranged it and financed it. I launched my oldest kid into college. I held my little family together.
Turns out my kids were watching the whole time. And they always knew what I was capable of. So when I asked for a unicycle for mother’s day, they didn’t try to talk me out of it. They didn’t undermine my confidence by asking, “are you sure?” Without any hesitation or debate, they pooled their money and bought me the exact model I wanted.
They gave me more than a unicycle. They gave me a symbol. Every time I ride it, I’ll know how much my kids believe in me. No matter how many times I fall off, they expect me to get right back on again.
I’ve been practicing twenty minutes a day, wobbling up and down the driveway, clinging to the garden wall. Losing my balance, falling off, getting on again. But I’m not giving up.
I’m going to learn to ride this unicycle.
Because I can do anything.
Please play along as I give my quarterly update.
Back in January, I made an ambitious goal. I would write 2017 pages this year. At 250 words per page, that’s 504,250 words in one calendar year.
This isn’t a big deal to anyone but me. A writer’s secret scribbling doesn’t matter much. Only output matters. At the end of a year, how many books are in reader’s hands? That’s what counts. My brother has been an awesome accountability buddy, but talking about my goals in public helps me a lot, so please play along and ask me all the hard questions about what I’ve been up to the last three months. Thanks.
You: 500k words a year equals only 1400 words a day. Isn’t that low for a professional?
Me: A professional writer would scoff at this, thinking it was way too easy, but I’m not doing this full time. I’m still squeezing writing time around my part time jobs and volunteer work. To make things worse, I’m trying out a new genre, which means I’m a beginner all over again.
You: Okay, so you should be at 126,063 words by March 31. Did you hit your first quarter goal or what?
Me: Yes, I did.
I wrote 126,749 words, which puts me over my goal by nearly 700 words. I had a few days in January where I didn’t write at all, but I put my fingers to the keyboard every single day in February and March.
You: What did you write?
Me: I wrote 107,778 words of fiction plus 18,971 words of nonfiction. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final numbers, because I was afraid I was spending too much time on nonfiction, but it came out to 15%, which seems just right.
You: Nonfiction? That counts?
Me: That totally counts. I bring a ton of creativity to my nonfiction. Blog posts, book reviews, and class materials for my writing workshops all count toward my goal. So do editing letters. (Those are the three or four page letters I write for my editing clients, telling them what’s working in their books and what isn’t.)
Some nonfiction doesn’t count, though. I don’t count social media updates or emails. But that other stuff? I bring my A game to things like book reviews and editing letters, using every bit of my creativity, so I add them to my daily total.
You: But editing your own books doesn’t count as new words, right?
Me: Right. I’m only tracking raw output, which is why on some days, I can work for hours and hours and have only a few hundred words to show for it. Editing is time-consuming, but it’s not something that I can skip in favor of new words. That’s not how books happen.
You: But I haven’t seen any of these things. Are you sure you’re not just a poser?
Me: Some of the nonfiction went on this blog and my book review blog. The materials for my writing workshops went to the attendees. The editing letters went directly to my editing clients. Writing doesn’t have to be published to be considered worthy.
You: But what of all this fiction you supposedly wrote? 100k words is more fiction than many writers write in a whole year. Where did it all go? Why isn’t anyone reading it?
Me: People are reading it. They just don’t know I wrote it.
Some of those 107,778 words are still work-in-progress, which will be published later. Some was just for practice, and I won’t be publishing it at all.
But most of it was published. So far this year, I’ve published eleven short stories (about 9k each) under a super secret pen name. The stories were experimental, trying out a new genre, and I’m not comfortable revealing this pen name. So you might have read some of my short stories without knowing it.
I loved writing them. Those stories mean a lot to me and I’m happy that I brought them into the world, even if I can’t claim them.
And by the way? This blog post has 706 words in it. I’m adding those my total for next quarter.
About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She likes sticking to her goals.