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"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Writing Tip #3: Accountability

Any past Tips & Prompts can be found on my website: Writing Tips & Prompts.

Writing Tip #3: Accountability

Now, I know not everyone is a writer, but this may be helpful to non-writers as well, especially those who have careers that are more solitary and need a lot of self-discipline and self-motivation to keep you on track.

For the most part, writing is a solitary endeavor. Not all the time. I mean, there are the wild parties at the writing conventions. (I know I've had a few crazy nights at In Your Write Mind with my writer friends.) But the biggest chunk of time spent tending to the business of writing is your butt in your chair, typing out thrilling tales. And you're alone. So alone. Unless you count the characters in your head and on the page, but if you start believing they're real, that's a topic for a different writing tip.

When you're on your own, especially if you don't currently have publication deadlines threatening you, it can be hard to focus, to stay motivated and productive. Making your own deadlines or bribing yourself are good attempts at keeping yourself in line, but they don't work for everyone.

Fear not, there is something else that may help.

Though us writers spend most of our time working in solitude, one of the great things is that other writers know what we're going through. They're going through the same thing. And writers are a great bunch who are willing to band together to support each other! You see it with all the writer forums and groups that spring up all over the place. Most other writers are welcoming and supportive of other writers (and if you find some who aren't, turn tail and run -- you'll easily find others who are).

And these fellow writers can help with accountability, keeping you on track. I feel this works best in small groups. What I do follows -- you may need to adjust for your own preferences.

Now, big forums like Kboards, which I frequent, definitely have support, but it's sometimes hard to keep the accountability going with such a large group of writers. This is why I love Writing Quest and my two fellow SHU Writing Popular Fiction grads. These are smaller groups, and even if Writing Quest ever grew to larger proportions, the focus of the group is goals (and cheering each other on).

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know I've been running Writing Quest for some time. It started out as monthly events on Facebook, but now it's Facebook group. At the beginning of each month, we list our monthly goals. We can check in throughout the month, but some people also check in only at the end of the month. Sometimes putting your goals out there to a group spur you to be productive so you can come back at the end of the month and declare your success.

OK, sometimes a group still isn't personal enough to get you in line and working diligently. This is also why I don't know where I'd be without my two WPF cohorts, J. Gunnar Grey and Melanie Card. Because of them, I have kept on task more often than not.

What we like to do is e-mail each other and check in -- see what we're up to, what we've gotten done recently, and what our plans are for the next few days ahead. Now, we don't e-mail every day, but usually at least once or twice a week (OK, sometimes we e-mail daily or even more than once in a day, but that's usually when we're having a lively discussion about something or another about writing or publishing).

This checking in on a consistent basis is helpful because it makes me want to have something to report. I hate the messages that start out, "Well, I got nothing done all week." It makes me feel guilty and unproductive. I want to feel as productive as they are (well, almost -- my production is no where near at their level, but I have a toddler to blame for that).

And the funny thing is, even when I think I haven't gotten that much done, when I type it up in an e-mail or a post to Writing Quest, I realize I actually got a lot more done than I thought. It's encouraging to see your accomplishments, however little, put down in words!

So, if you want to find a way to be accountable, find a couple of other like-minded writers willing to do a mini-group e-mail exchange with you. Or join a small group focused on writing goals. Remember, any writer is welcome over at Writing Quest, so feel free to send a request to join the group!

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