Happy New Year! Starting off 2019 with a post on how to establish writing accountability feels fitting on many levels. I’ve decided to cut down to one blog post a month with a few bonus posts thrown in for good measure. After seven years, it’s time to make a shift. In order to devote more time to editing projects as well as to my own creative writing, something’s gotta give.
I’ve created a stockpile of informative posts that attest to my my authority as an editor and writer. As many of you know, blogging takes an incredible amount of work for a team of one. Never fear! My goal is to make each post more informative than ever, and the quarterly newsletter will live on as well as the monthly subscriber drawing for free editing up to 5,000 words.
How to Establish Writing Accountability
Like it or not, each of us is entirely accountable for our actions no matter the outside influences at play. How we react to any situation is the only response within our control. Writing is the way to get the writing done, and if you don’t it’s because you’ve made that choice. A writing accountability system will help you stop making excuses.
I’m blaming my friend for my recent transition to embracing accountability, much as I blame her for my transition years ago back to actively participating in writing critique groups after some time away post-college. Her mentions lead to my action. Interestingly enough, a pal from graduate school also started a writing accountability group on Facebook around the same time. A fire has been lit under my tush so to speak.
It’s easy to find reasons not to write. Believe me, I am an expert at doing so. Who hasn’t whined about how much work they have to do whatever the nature of their work may be? That it’s simply impossible to find the time to write? Yet, nearly all of us have time to veg in front of various screens or tidy the house or yard when we could be getting some writing done. Accountability practices can go a long way toward learning how to prioritize.
Writing accountability involves many factors, foremost of which is making a commitment to yourself. Beyond that comes social commitment as a way to further increase your odds of success. There is also a transactional nature to consider, whether a crowdfunding campaign, critique partner exchange, or simply sending writing extras or “freebies” to your email list. Each practice holds you accountable for delivery.
Setting a Reporting Routine
If you are particularly struggling to get more writing done, you might want to consider setting up a daily reporting routine. A short email, text, or social media post will do. The point is to check in with another living soul on each other’s progress or lack thereof. A writing accountability partner doesn’t even have to be a fellow writer, though that certainly helps!
For most, a weekly writing accountability check-in will likely work best. If you vow to take weekends off, a Friday afternoon accountability report might be in order. Chances are for many, Sunday evenings tend to work best. And if you haven’t found someone to check in with via email, there’s power to be had in simply making a public announcements on social media. You can run, but you can’t hide!
It’s time to stop that feeling of a haphazard writing process that loops languidly like an old cassette tape that occasionally gets garbled.
Now is not the time to be wishy-washy! The idea is to make writing a regular routine, preferably at least five days a week. However, there’s a chance maybe three or even only two days a week can be carved out for you. With that in mind, develop a sense of how much time you can spare to write. Word count goals do not motivate me, but they might motivate you. Instead, I aim to write for a set number of hours per week.
It never hurts either to set strategic goals that stretch into the future. Such goals are not set in stone and will need to be adjusted on a regular basis. This is how accountability works. Beyond daily goals, what are your weekly goals? This matters because there is always the inevitable day or two where you get thrown off course. How about monthly writing goals? Quarterly ones and yearly ones? It doesn’t hurt either to think two, three, five, or even ten years out. Targets need to be made visible if any chance can exist at hitting them.
Don’t forget about setting editing, publishing, and marketing goals as well. But start with your writing goals. None of the rest of the process matters much if writing isn’t being produced on a regular basis. It’s a huge balancing act, and you may find it worth considering to not write during major holidays or when editing or marketing needs your attention more.
Reflecting, but not Comparing
In order to benefit the most from writing accountability practices, or pretty much any serious endeavor in life, it’s necessary to be reflective. Your daily or weekly report need not be overly lengthy. Proceed by stating what your goals were and whether or not you met them. If you didn’t met them, explain why. Then go on to describe your goals for the next day or week ahead. That’s it. Write. Rinse. Repeat. It will become habit.
No matter what, don’t bother with comparing yourself to your accountability partner or others in an accountability group. There are so many factors that go into any person’s given schedule and output. You do you. You are the only person who can, so stop falling back on a victim mentality. Pull up those writing britches and carry on with your writing journey.
Complaining vs. Commiserating
As I’ve been applying the concept of accountability to many areas of my life, a quote from Eckhart Tolle has been rattling around in my brain these past few months. He states, “When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” Complaining is a huge waste of energy. Stop your bitching already! Such tactics get old real quick. Focus that energy on more positive avenues.
Sharing our struggles helps us connect as writers and as humans. Not many writers are lucky enough to be able to make a living writing. Others writers may have a spouse with a job that allows them more writing time than some. No matter what, the art of learning how to say no can serve you well on your writing journey. Invest in yourself for once.
Maybe you shy away from setting office hours for writing because you’re convinced interruptions will happen. That may be the case from time to time, but set hours for writing give you a more stable target to aim for. Perfection isn’t the goal, but more reliable butt in chair time is.
Personal accountability is one of the cornerstones to a satisfying life. Learn to embrace it. Stop making excuses for not getting the writing done. Just write. It’s that simple and that hard all at once.
What tips can you share when it comes to writing accountability? Do you have such a partner or group now or in the past?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2019. Image credit: Cassette Tape.