Friday, March 21, 2014

What's Keeping You Accountable to Your Writing?

Here it is, the first day of spring for us in New England, and I'm both eager and nervous.  Snow still covers the yard, but the light is stronger and birds are in their nesting frenzy.  Days pass quickly.  Outdoors will become part of my life again soon.

I'm a passionate gardener and kayaker.  So spring, summer, and fall predictably pull me away from my writing--big time.  I'm eager to get back to the quiet water and the glide of my kayak.  I crave walking barefoot through the new garden, feeling the soft air. 

But here's my concern:  Will I slowly abandon my book as the warm weather calls me away from my desk?

There's nothing wrong with this--but my book is really important to me.  I made a commitment to it last year, to take it through final revision.  I have given the feedback time to simmer.  I have drafted a plan of attack.  But it takes sitting down at the desk and putting in the time.  And I love it, if I have some way to make myself show up every day.

About this time of year, I set up or renew an accountability system for myself.  I know what will happen if I don't.

This Week's Writing Exercise
This week's writing exercise is to explore and try one of the systems below, or use one of your own.  See if you start a new rhythm of accountability, perhaps writing five out of seven days each week.

1.  Sign up for a class where you have to write each week. 
I like to sign up for an online writing class in fall and spring.  I'm comfortable with the format and I love the anonymity of virtual gatherings.  I look for classes that require me to practice new skills and workshop (share) my writing each week, if possible.  Launching into a new writing community is scary at first, but I have experienced only positive results.  Often the group is so fun to be with, we stay in touch after the class is over.

2.  Call a writing buddy and set up a check-in system.
My second accountability tool is to renew my connection with my writing partners.  Set up freewriting sessions with a writing buddy.  Monthly or weekly or daily check-ins, depending on how much you write. 

3.  Try Jerry Seinfeld's technique:  Create a chain you don't want to break.Jerry Seinfeld's productivity secret is a technique he used when he was just starting out.  The goal is to not break the chain of red X's on the calendar.  LifeHacker also offers online calendars to use for this technique.  Works great for anyone who loves to-do lists.   

Bottom line:  Most of us, even very disciplined folks, need something to keep them going.  If they know that others are depending on them, waiting for them, expecting something, they'll try to deliver.  Writing a book is a long-term process and these accountability systems not only support you but get you to, as one student put it, "shut up and just write." 

That's all that counts, in the end.  Whether you write.  Or not.