Sunday, August 14, 2011

Making Yourself Accountable

In the solitary pursuit that is writing, unless you have a contract, how do you make yourself accountable to your writing, if your ultimate goal is publication? For some, this isn't an issue, but for others, it can be.

It's hard to place value on something as ephemeral as writing. You get no immediate reward from it, other than its intrinsic value to you, the writer. The accomplishment of writing is euphoric, addicting, but when the dishes sit in the sink and the floor could use a good scrubbing, how do you justify taking the time to write without the accompanying guilt?

First of all, your writing has value if you decide it does. The hard part is not allowing others to talk you out of deeming your writing as something that has value. If it means something to you, then it'll mean something to family and friends, especially if you don't allow them to categorize it as your "fun little hobby." Treat your writing with the respect it deserves and others will follow suit.

Accountability to your writing will also add value to it. If your family and friends see you taking it seriously, that makes it bit more important than a "fun little hobby." But when there are those pesky house chores to deal with, kids, husband, pets, full or part-time jobs to contend with, the writing often takes a backseat. The kids are only kids for a short time, true. But that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy them AND your writing. They won't suffer if you write for an hour or two a day, whatever your schedule allows. In fact, I think it gives them the opportunity to see that you are *more* than Mom or Dad, and that's very important.

Have a writing buddy or a critique partner---someone you with whom get along well, someone who's writing you enjoy (because that makes it way easier to reciprocate if you're not dreading have to read through their erotic m/m romances when your speed is a more conservative sweet m/f romance, for example). Set up guidelines and a schedule and away you go.

How do you set guidelines? Well, first, you need to set a goal. Set the high goal (how many words or chapter you'd like to write, in a perfect world), then set a medium goal--a goal you can live with and would be perfectly happy to achieve, then a low goal--the absolute minimum you want to achieve and still would consider yourself as making progress. Your aim, of course, is to reach that high goal. Some weeks that will happen. Other weeks, everyone came down with the "coughing, aching, stuffy-head, fever, boy I sure could use some sleep" bug and you're purty darned lucky you got to your minimum goal. No, I don't think this is a built-in "permission to fail/not strive for the top"...I see this as a positive ladder, a way to gauge what you think you can do versus what you actually CAN do, and gives you a way to adjust your goals accordingly, so they'll be realistic goals. That's another key towards being accountable---setting a realistic goal.

From the goals to the guidelines you set with your writing partner---Are you going to pick a day each week that you email Proof of Writing, as my friend/accountability partner call it? Once every two weeks? Once a month? Yahoo email, I know, has a calendar that you can set to send reminders, and you can export that reminder to someone else via email. Are you sending work to be critiqued, simply read, or just for an acknowledgement that it arrived?

Lastly, what you need from your accountability partner is a positive, upbeat, encouraging, can-do attitude. She's there to cheer you on, tell you to stop being so hard on yourself because you always come up 500 words short of your ultimate goal. Maybe you should adjust that goal, because you're hitting X consistently. Seems to be perfect for you, and the WIP is progressing nicely."

Would you like that in a nutshell?

Nutshell Version of Today's Blog Post

1. Value your writing, and others will follow suit.

2. Be accountable to your writing: It adds another level of value to it.

3. Find a writing buddy to help keep you accountable.

4. Set a series of goals from the lowest you'd like to accomplish in any given time period, to a mid-range goal, to the ultimate goal.

5. Set guidelines for the accountability partnership.

6. Get to writing!


“When you use words, you're able to keep your mind alive. Writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.” ~Gao Xingjian

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled.” ~Dean Koontz

“I am not bound to win
but I am bound to be true;
I am not bound to succeed
but am bound to live up
to what light I have."
~Abraham Lincoln


Grace Tyler said...

Making love while having a tooth pulled. I love that!

What I hate is the fact that the only WIP I have ever finished 100% is the one I had a contract for and thus a hard deadline. Deep breath. I am doing this. NOW.

aida said...

No wonder we're all bats. Are we all going through this at the same time? My Mom went out of town for the month leaving me behind to care for a father who doesn't see that the floors need sweeping and moping, leaving the counters full of crap and the sink, too. And I won't throw in the 4 dogs and 2 birds who need constant care. I'm sacrificing sleep for my writing right now but it's worth it to me. It doesn't matter that my writing is not important to anybody but me.

kathi h said...

Laura, I really think you hit this right on. Thanks for posting it.

Kathi h

Laura Hamby said...

Thanks to Grace and Kathi for being the inspiration for today's post, and yes, Aida...It's called the One Bat ___ Syndrome (fill in the blank)--the theory is since we all seem to experience the same, or similar trials and tribulations at the same time, we're really just One Bat.