by Amanda Smith
Let’s face it: Sometimes it is hard to actually sit down and write. Even if it is what you really want to do. Even if you have blocked off time just for your writing. Even if writing is the thing that fills your cup.
Sitting down and actually WRITING can be pretty darn hard. There are just too many distractions. That is why giving an account is essential to my writing process. And progress. Here are a few practical suggestions for finding accountability partners:
A Writer’s Group:
Recently Annie wrote about the importance of integrating in the writers’ community (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/the-importance-of-a-writing-community-conferencestwittercritique-groupsoh-my). More than support, our writers’ group offers me accountability. Here is how it works. Every month we say, “Last month I did _____” and then we offer praise and support (and always some awesome jokes) and then we say, “This coming month I plan to do _______.”
The sheer thought of having to look these three women in the eye and say, “This month I wrote nothing. Nada. Zilch. I was out chasing squirrels.” makes me quiver in my boots. Of course, if that were the case, they would be completely understanding and supportive, but I would feel like I didn't keep my end of the deal.
Your accountability partner does not have to be a fellow writer, though. On a particularly unproductive morning, a dear friend sent me a quick message. As I lamented my lack of productivity to her, she challenged me by saying: “I’m setting my timer for 20 minutes. You do the same and see how much you can get done and then we’ll check in with each other.”
I got to work like a squirrel in fall. Because I did not want to tell her in 20 minutes’ time that I am still browsing the internet. And then I got so involved in what I was doing, I didn't check in until an hour and a half later. Now, she wasn't writing. She spent her 20 minutes cleaning her kitchen counter and her dining room table. But knowing I had to check in with her got me writing. And it felt wonderfully productive.
Yip, the old timer can also be your accountability partner. You can do 20 minute miracles like Francine (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/20-minute-miracles). I like the hour bucket principle. You write for 45 minutes and take a 15 minute break. Honestly, though, sometimes I ignore that timer after 45 minutes and work until I get to a natural break in my work. But the timer certainly helps me to START.
Writing challenges can also be wonderful accountability partners. And November most definitely is writing challenge month!
For the novel writers out there, the challenge is writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Even though I have not participated in this challenge, setting a word goal and tracking your words are great ways to provide motivation and accountability.
The premise is simple. You write down at least one picture book idea for each day of November. This is about as low key a writing challenge as you can get. You don’t have to develop those ideas, they don’t even have to be complete ideas. They just have to be. But this is one of my favorite challenges, because I find myself LOOKING for stories in everything. This challenge has taught me to think creatively, to always look and listen for stories (and to write those ideas DOWN before they disappear into the land of lost stories). It keeps me in “writing mode” every day. Few things feel better than having those 30+ ideas at the end of November! Hurry, you can still register for PiBoIdMo 2014!
12x12 flowed out of PiBoIdMo for those who wanted to develop their ideas. The concept is to write one picture book draft a month. The end of each month brings a check in and one can earn cute little badges on one’s profile for each draft. I covet those badges. I work for those badges. Those badges keep me accountable. I have 10 colorful draft badges under my name. That is 10 picture book drafts that I did not have in January!!! Because 12x12 kept me accountable. Sign up for 12x12 is in January.
Our critique group submits picture book manuscripts to one another once a month. We have a week to critique and return the stories. Knowing I have to submit something “share-able” to my critique partners each month keeps me writing and revising.
A rose by any other name…
Not so much, Shakespeare. I am a writer. That, right there. That is my biggest accountability partner. Because when I say those words, the inevitable follow up question is, “So, what do you write?” I want to have a timely answer to that question. Not what I wrote last month, or even last week, but what I am working on right now. Because I don’t say those words lightly.
Who keeps you accountable as you pursue writing? Tell us in the comments section if you have found some particularly motivating accountability partners.
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