A Year in Words

When I was a teenager, I read an article about author W.P. Kinsella where it said that he wrote 900 words every day. “That can’t take more than an hour or two; some life these professional writers have!” is what I remember thinking at the time.

Then inevitable rejoinder is, “well, why don’t you try it?” And the answer of course is that such output is harder to manage than it sounds. A writer who hit Kinsella’s daily quota would grind out just under 330,000 words over the course of the year—enough for about four novels of respectable length.

It was about a year ago now that I began work on what became my first eBook. So with this nostalgic anniversary on the door step, I thought I would reflect on the past year’s writing totals.

The first draft of 25 Principles clocked in at close to 110,000 words. My Springsteen project currently sits at about 50,000. I have another pot-boiler project that totals 10,000 and since November, I would estimate I have churned out another 10,000 or so in postings for this blog. So my sum total from end of January 2013 to end of January 2014 would be around 180,000.

That sounds impressive, though I doubt that it counts as being prolific output. In the indie publishing world, there are people who claim they grind out 20,000 sometimes as many as 50,000, words in a single week. If I wrote full-time, I think I might hit 20,000 over a very good seven day period; I don’t know how anyone would reach 50,000 without the assistance of methamphetamines.

Still, that 180,000 total feels significant. There is an old writer’s maxim that states that every writer has “a million words of crap” that they have to discharge from their system before they start producing work that can be considered “good.” It’s kind of a variation on Malcolm Gladwell’s idea of the 10,000 hour rule. The figure of one million words isn’t a hard and fast one; some writers contend that the threshold could actually be as low as 693,000.

In any event, I feel like I have served a good chunk of a long apprenticeship now. The past year’s output forms a big part of it, but my training has been underway for far longer. The journey has included hundreds of press releases, endless scrolls of web copy—not to mention the horrible fiction writing attempts of my younger years.

The incremental nature of writing (and getting better at it) is a bit like the old philosophical puzzle of how many grains make a heap. I don’t know exactly what I have right now or what I am moving towards. It probably isn’t mastery but it’s something.

 

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An Open Letter to Global Warming (Reprised)

I don’t know about where you live, but it has been a cold start to 2014 around these parts. This has followed up on a cold ending to 2013. Most of the last three weeks have seen temperatures of 20 below zero (Celsius), with wind chill values occasionally touching the -30s. A few parts of the country have seen -50 temperatures, and it looks like the cold trend will keep going for some time yet.

The one good thing about this weather is that it is conducive to Canada’s great national pastime—complaining about winter. And lately, if you partake in a group conversation about the cold and snow it doesn’t take long for some great wit to make the following observation:

“Global warming? More like global cooling if you ask me!”

(This is a sterling example of what is sometimes called “dad humour.” Another famous specimen of dad humour is the old chestnut, “Rap music? More like crap music if you ask me.”)

snow

In the thrall of winter. Can you spot the arctic hare?

I remember many moons ago another similarly vicious cold snap. I recall that I spent a lot of time walking from place-to-place while it was ongoing, and the bedroom I slept in at the time had poor-to-nonexistent insulation, so the spell of frigid weather took a toll on me. I even pondered some half-joking thoughts about whether it might make sense for me personally to become a global warming supporter.

After mulling this thought in my partially frostbitten brain, I came to the realization that a letter of support to global warming from someone suffering through a deep freeze would be a funny exploration of recency bias. And pondering that a little further, I realized that such a piece would be a good candidate for submission to the “Open Letters to People or Entities Unlikely to Respond” department of the McSweeney’s website. So when I had my “Open Letter to Global Warming” written and bashed into form, I sent it off to them and it was accepted. Hooray!

Anyways, that would be the end of a relatively mundane story, except for one strange final twist. Not quite a year later, I discovered through pure happenstance that someone at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) must’ve taken a shine to the letter, because a recording of someone reading it was broadcast during an episode of The Current—a weekday radio program. I even found a podcast of the episode online and was able to listen dumbfounded as some chap with an Australian accent gave my deathless prose a dramatic reading.

It was a surreal experience. The best part was that CBC made absolutely no attempt to secure my permission to use it or to inform me that it was going to appear on air. Now I know how contributors to Flickr must feel. But not to worry, as I vowed at the time, “the day will come when I have my revenge on Anna-Marie Tremonti.” In fact, this is the title of another humour piece/polemic I wrote, although I am forbidden from publishing it anywhere due to the contents of a restraining order that is still in force.

But enough of all that. In celebration of this fierce cold snap, I thought I would exhume “An Open Letter to Global Warming” from the vault to provide a little humour during this dark winter month. I don’t remember what rights (if any) I granted to McSweeneys, but I’m going to rerun it here anyways. Besides, they never paid me anything so I figure that entitles me to do what I want. If you’d prefer to read it as published on the McSweeney’s site, you can do so by clicking here.

An Open Letter to Global Warming

Dear Global Warming,

I know I’m not supposed to like you. I’ve heard about your grandiose plans to melt the polar icecaps and flood coastal cities, your aspirations to destabilize global weather patterns and throw fragile ecosystems into upheaval, and your desire to have all of us, by the year 2070, living inside geodesic domes, whence we will gaze wistfully out at moribund deserts and dream of greener times. I know everyone says you’re bad, but damn it, I don’t care, because after six straight days of minus-25-degree weather I’m ready to throw myself into your arms.

Being a man-made ecological phenomenon, you might have some difficulty in commiserating with my plight. You’ve never had to walk to get groceries with the skin of your face threatening to crack like old plaster because the only sound your car made when you tried to start it was the dry death rattle of an engine that refused to turn over. You’ve never had to shovel out a driveway while being lashed by blowing snow, with your teeth clattering together in uncontrollable Morse code, while your mind is preoccupied with the concern that your numb ears might have already succumbed to frostbite, and that they could be turning purple in preparation of detaching from your head altogether. If you had suffered through these things, you would not doubt my sincerity. This cold snap has turned me into a half-mad combination of Faust and Sam McGee; I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

I’ll start burning coal in my wood stove. I’ll buy the most inefficient SUV that Detroit has the gall to put on the market. Whenever a friend says something like “There’s not much snow anymore, not like when we were kids,” or the topic of climate change comes up, I’ll cite with authority one of the studies sponsored by Exxon that claim you don’t exist. So, please, let me join you over on the dark side. After all, there’s nothing (figuratively) cool about hypothermia, and the prospects of more arable land in the Arctic and balmy weather all year long sounds pretty good to me.

Sincerely,

Mike Ward

P.S. Please disregard my letter from last July’s heat wave. I was only joking.

**

First published on McSweeney’s.net, March 31, 2005.

25 Principles of Health and Weight Loss – Now Available for Kindle!

25 Principles

The “temporary” cover for 25 Principles. Permanent cover coming soon!

After thousands of hours, hundreds of cups of coffee, and only two or three near-nervous breakdowns (all figures approximate), I’m pleased to announce that the revolutionary eBook, 25 Principles of Health and Weight Loss, (by yours truly) is now available through Amazon for all Kindle devices and the Kindle reading app!

Canadians can buy the book for the insanely low price of just $4.99 ($ CAN) from the Amazon Canada website, while American buyers can get it from Amazon.com for whatever the equivalent of $4.99 Canadian is in US funds. But wait there’s more! If you are a member of Amazon Prime you can “borrow” the book for free through the Amazon lending library—hard to argue with that!

What is 25 Principles all about? You could say it’s like a series of linked essays about losing weight, living well, and making personal changes in our modern age—why these things seem so difficult and how they can be accomplished more easily. It’s not a diet book per se, but there is a lot of practical and actionable advice. The “blend” is one part philosophy, one part practicality, one part humour, with a couple sprinkles of interesting trivia and the odd dash of motivation thrown in for seasoning.

If your curiosity has been piqued, you can download a preview (approximately the first 10 per cent of the book) from Amazon. You can also read a sample chapter (in PDF) that I have posted over on the 25 Principles page, to get a feel for the writing style and the content that is covered.

Now I know: some of you may have had bad experiences with other independently-published eBooks you bought or read in the past and you might be reluctant to take a flyer on this one. Allow me to reassure you, because this isn’t another one of those slap-dash monstrosities you come across in the Kindle store—like those embarrassing 2,500 word “books” that can be read in seven or eight minutes. The eBook version of 25 Principles clocks in at just over 96,000 words (down from a first-draft length of over 107,000) and it would be at least 300 pages in print—by my estimates. It’s no Crime and Punishment, but you’re not going to start and finish it on your morning subway ride either.    

If you’re one of those throwbacks who hasn’t been won over by eBooks yet, be advised that I’m in the process of building a paperback version of 25 Principles that I hope to have available by January 2014. This will be my ongoing project for the next month or so. Along with straightening out some Byzantine tax and administrative stuff with Amazon—which apparently will qualify me to work as a Certified Public Accountant by the time I’m done.

25 Principles has been a huge undertaking for me, and it was also the catalyst for getting this blog operational. I’ll have more posts in the future exploring the themes and ideas that are central to the book, as well as details on new formats and offers. With Christmas and the holidays coming (and New Year’s Resolutions not far behind) there will be some special promotional offers forthcoming with the book. Of course you—my loyal blog readers (all three of you)—will be the first to know about these when they arrive.

The First Post

Everything has to start somewhere. In the words of Rage Against The Machine, “What better place than here? What better time than now?” If you’re a time-traveler from the future looking for clues, here’s where it all begins.

As you can infer from the URL and title, this site exists as an extension of my writing interests. I’m an independent author living in the Canadian hinterland. My big upcoming debut work will be an eBook entitled, 25 Principles of Health and Weight Loss, scheduled for release by the end of November 2013. You can scope out more details about me on the About page if you feel so inclined.

However, these pages are going to be about more than pushing eBooks and providing a venue for experimental tone poems. With the blog, I plan to write on various and sundry topics of interest to me. This will include essays on health and fitness, personal development, and public relations, in addition to shorter news items and humour pieces. Occasionally, I might even throw something up about the indie publishing game.

It’s going to be a big of a piecemeal effort to get the site fully up to speed. Once I’m up and running, I hope to keep a posting frequency of a couple of times per week, but I’m sure there will be both quieter periods when I’m tied up with other things, and prolific times when I get riled up about some topic or another.

That’s about all for right now. This post is more-or-less just a rust-off exercise. Keep reading, as bigger and better things are on the way!