Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 15, 2017

Maintaining Accountability

Tasha Seegmiller

If, like me, you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, you have developed some feelings about the word count tracker. Maybe it has become your greatest motivator. Maybe you try to hide from it like a toddler with scissors who just got caught cutting their own hair. We all have different reasons for the way we currently feel about the NaNo Tracker, but I think it is the sort of thing that we should consider beyond this month.

You see, love or hate, the NaNo Tracker keeps us accountable for the writing we actually did. And, if you have writing buddies, you know that they also have access to your progress, and that this may be contributing to your willingness to continue to update or hide.

There is a temptation, when it comes to writing, to falsify the progress we are making. Some of it is absolutely invisible work, thinking and brainstorming and researching and solidifying that has to take place in order to have a strong story. Playing around with mock-ups of covers is probably less helpful. And talking about how you have an idea for a story over and over may work in the long run as people question how your book is coming, knowing and doing are two different things.

There is a necessity to have a solid plan of accountability.

Part of the problem may be your tendency. Gretchen Rubin explains that the tendency is how well we meet or disregard our own expectations or the expectations of others. I think knowing which part of the framework you fall in will help you better understand what kind of accountability works for you. Please take the free quiz here.

Regardless of where you ended up, it will be difficult to succeed at this writing gig without a plan of consistency. For this part, there are a few steps.

Track Your Progress

My dad was a high school athletics coach for a long time, guiding youth on football fields and basketball courts and around the track. He always said his favorite sport to coach when it came to dealing with parents was track and field – the numbers didn't lie. Someone was either a top runner, or they weren’t. They either cleared the height of the high jump or they didn’t. While having a steady time to write every day is important for creating a habit, tracking what actually got accomplished during the writing time is essential.

Fellow WITS contributor Jamie Raintree has a great resource for the people who like to track words. Her Writing and Revision Tracker has is a thing of organizational beauty, and the 2018 version is available now, with some new bells and whistles I’m very eager to play with.

Perhaps the techie stuff leads you down the path of distraction (or frustration). With the customization options of bullet journals, you can consider exactly what you’d like to track.

Report Your Progress

If a writer produces so many words and no one knows…

Ah, forget it.

Most people are more likely to hit their goals if they have to tell someone about it. A few years ago, I had the good fortune to join a critique group that meets every two weeks. That means that every two weeks, we have to take ownership as to whether or not we have been writing. It’s just enough time that a bad day (or two) doesn’t derail anything and frequent enough that writing has to stay at least a little at the forefront of our minds.

There are also people who have had success with a single accountability partner. I recently stumbled on an article that shared the idea of a friendtor – someone who was a friend first, but also has common interests, passions and pursuits. In this, the author suggests a 30/30/30 system. The interested pair schedule a time regularly when they can get together, and spend the first 30 minutes getting caught up on life stuff, the second 30 minutes of one person sharing work and progress and hiccups and derailments while the other listens, then the last 30 minutes switching. I have a friend who I do this with in person, and a sibling who I engage with over the phone. Why two? The first is who I can share my creative process with, is someone who can share hers with me. My sibling is very goal and marketing driven, which means that on a semi-regular basis, I get to think about being a creative and a solopreneur, and what I have been doing to succeed at both, and where I have experienced setbacks.

Celebrate Your Progress

Finishing something warrants celebration. Not all out nutso parties, but a group of people with whom the accomplishments from “I have a new idea” to “The End” can be met with praise and joy. My writing group also has an online group through Facebook messenger where we can share and, as necessary, be the beneficiary of sticker and/or gif parades. It seems small, but knowing there is a group who is excited is that small propulsion that allows us to keep going, to keep creating. I have also found these kinds of people in WFWA and as part of The Motivated Writer group.

Finally, these kinds of accomplishments absolutely have a place in your social media life, and experts even say the way to Be The Gateway and honestly engage with an online audience is to Show Your Work.

Do you have any other favorite tools or groups where you like to track, report or celebrate your progress? Please share below!

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Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for Thinking Through Our Fingers as well as a board member for the Women's Fiction Writers Association. She is also the founder of Creative/Woman, a safe space for brave women who love to create. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

12 comments on “Maintaining Accountability”

  1. Such a timely article for me. I am not participating in Nanowrimo this year but I am trying to keep myself more accountable to writing. A friend last night at her book launch said she kept a journal with one side saying how long she wrote that day and the other side listing all the other things she did that day. It was easy for her to see how she spent her time and what to get rid of in order to create more space to complete her writing project. I love technology but the old school notebook might keep me from disappearing down the internet rabbit hole 🙂 thanks for a great article!

  2. Anyone who knows me, knows which tendency I am (nuf said). Thanks for the great tools, Tasha! Any blog that teaches me something new, and how to get around my own foibles is a keeper!

  3. I have a basic Excel spreadsheet where I track daily word count. Minimum goal is 1000 words, and when I meet it I let the Hubster and my CP know. Hubster also reads each scene as I print it out (I do my first edits in hard copy) and he'll say, "Do I get words today?"

    1. Oh, people who are asking for what you did on a daily basis are the best and the worst. Thanks for sharing about the accountability partner in your life.

  4. Took the test and was labelled a 'Questioner.' I've signed up for their emails to explore this further. The link on bullet journals for writers makes me reconsider trying this, just for daily to-dos and self care and a few collections items like books read. Thanks for such a well researched article with so many resources to explore!

    BTW, I'm a nano non-participant. I'm a slow, steady writer year-round and largely edit my work as I go. It works for me.

    1. I think it's perfectly fine to be slow and steady. I'm reading several books about this now that indicate so (Check out Deep Work by Cal Newport). Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. I'm not shocked in the least to see that the quiz labeled me a Questioner. Yeah, if I'm convinced of the good of something, I'm so there. Otherwise...not so much. I find that my accountability tools are more for myself, and with community it's more about celebrating each other's progress than feeling obligated to some goal.

    Great points and tools here. Thanks for your insight, Tasha!

  6. I loved the links, Tasha! Thank you. I'm not so much into personal accountability since I tend to be all in or all out, but you've provided me with some cool new "toys."

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