by Francine Puckly
For a few years now, I’ve been contemplating hopping on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon. I’ve held off for a number of reasons. First, I compose my initial drafts longhand, pen to paper, which makes tracking word count a bit tricky. Second, it’s No-School-November, a month in which school administrators conspire against writers by slotting in numerous half days or complete days off for everything from parent-teacher conferences to elections to holidays. The final reason, not to be taken lightly, is that immersing myself in an international phenomenon with social media chats, blogs, and the like would most likely make me less productive when I hear that hundreds or thousands of other people are writing faster than I am.
That said, I had been researching my next book on and off for six months and had muddled over the plots, subplots, characters and setting. I was ready to tackle the next novel, and I desperately wanted to have a large chunk of the book on paper before the holiday season hit. There were no good excuses not to dive in.
I decided to customize a NaNoWriMo challenge. As a longhand writer, I determined how many pages I could write in one day. I created a monthly calendar with the goals written in, first by week then by day, with an overarching monthly goal as well. Those goals were all well and good, but I knew I couldn’t go it alone. I’ve tried that. When things get tough, I fall off the writing. First one day. Then another. Then another.
Instead, enter my accountability partner. Now, I probably should have asked her first before I made her my partner, but since we’ve been having weekly phone chats and setting goals together for three or four years, she gladly accepted the appointed position. I asked nothing of her except to receive daily texts stating that I had completed that day’s goal.
Only eight days into my challenge, her presence has saved my writing day three or four times already. My energy is flagging. Small (and big) crises that have hit my life this week would have been excuses to adjust my goals. But my accountability to her is priceless. She responds to every text, congratulating me, encouraging me to keep going. It’s a beautiful thing to be on this journey with her.
If you have aggressive goals for a future project, don’t go it alone. Ask a trusted colleague to be your accountability partner. Everyone benefits from having a cheerleader who understands the game. And the flip side of that, offer to be someone else’s rock for their project.
Hold someone’s hand. Or ask someone to hold yours. You’ll be amazed at the “impossible” things you will accomplish when someone’s waiting for you to check in.
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