With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to talk about holding oneself accountable as a writer. What I mean by this is writing when you don’t want to write.
Whatever the reason, there are days when sitting down and writing seems like an impossible feat, so we procrastinate. During the holidays, it can get even harder to focus on writing. Maybe it’s due to having the entire family coming over to your house for dinner. Maybe it’s all the cookies you’ve been eating. Maybe it’s reasoning that your New Year’s resolution will be to write more, so you can put writing off until then. Or maybe it’s because you’re frazzled or fried and nothing is coming to you.
So, how do we keep ourselves accountable? How can we motivate ourselves to keep writing?
One way my friend did it was pay herself a dollar for every thousand words she wrote. By the time she finished her novel, she was able to buy herself a nice pair of boots for the winter. For her, having a reward at the end of the road was enough to have her keep going. For others, this may not work.
Another one of my friends told herself she had a choice. She could either write five hundred words a day or do five hundred crunches. She wrote more often than she did the crunches. For her, having a penalty for not writing pushed her to write.
Yet another one of my friends took a different approach. She made herself accountable to her critique group. She set up weekly deadlines for herself and gave her critique group permission to bug her whenever she missed a deadline. It worked. By effectively giving herself bosses to report to, she added pressure to herself to write. She hadn’t been good at answering to herself – she was able to make up too many excuses why she couldn’t write – that she had to find others to answer to.
Since writing is such a solitary pursuit, it can be hard to stick to it, especially if you’re not the best self-motivator or all that great a structuring your time. Some solitude is necessary for writing. I have a tendency to shut my door every time I get start writing, and my favorite time to write is when I’m the only one home.
But too much alone time can hinder your writing ability. Writing is not easy. Externally, it’s very difficult to get published. The publishing world is not a friend of unpublished writers or debut authors. Internally, writers tend have voices in their head telling them that their writing sucks and that they’ve got no talent. Both of these things can make it very difficult to continue forging ahead on your own.
By making yourself accountable to someone else, you also get a support system. When I first started actively pursuing writing, I went at it alone, and that was fine for a little while, but I find myself much happier having the network of writers I do now. We help keep each other motivated and accountable, and we all know how challenging writing can be. Plus, by having a support network, we go to writing conferences and readings together, we critique each other’s works, and we share in both the ecstatic nature of writing and its pitfalls.
How do you keep yourself accountable?