Accountability: It Works!

Back in January many of you joined me in the “31 Minutes for 31 Days Challenge.” That jump started many of us for the new year.

In February I did my first 28-Day Challenge with two writing friends, and March began our second 28-day Challenge. (The Challenge has been to write at least 30 minutes daily.)

Strength in Numbers

Several of you have mentioned that you’d like to try an accountability challenge, and I’m going to start two of them on April 1st. They will each run for 30 days as we work together to become writers who write daily.

Today I’ll talk about the “why” behind daily writing practice. This coming Friday I will describe one of the challenges. Next Tuesday I will describe the second challenge–and the reasons for it. On Friday of next week, I’ll tell you how to sign up for one or both challenges.

“Many who want to be writers–who are in their hearts, writers–have followed the same beaten path that doesn’t come to a dead end so much as it peters out,” says Judy Reeves in one of my favorite writing books, A Writer’s Book of Days. “Even though their spirit longs for it, they have never made writing a priority in their lives; that is, they have never set aside a special, specific time for their writing. They don’t practice their craft.”

What’s So Special About Accountability?

I want to do these writing challenges with you because I’ve seen the huge difference this year that regular writing practice has made in my life. It isn’t just getting more writing done–although that is certainly true. Even nicer, I feel more like a writer. And when you feel like a writer, your confidence goes up INDEPENDENTLY of the market (whether you sell anything.)

And one thing is true: your writing really does get better.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Writers are artists. We paint with words. And we need to practice our craft daily like other artists who are working on their craft.

No one expects a pianist to go from Chop Sticks to Cargenie Hall. No one expects a painter to go from paint-by-number pictures to a one man New York showing. Dancers, actors, singers, athletes, artists: we only get good at our craft by daily doing the drills.

Writing practice is simply making an appointment with yourself to write–and then showing up. You treat that commitment to write, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes, as sacred. Only true emergencies keep you from that appointment. (True emergencies–yours or other people’s–usually involve lots of blood or lots of smoke. If the interruption doesn’t fit that description, chances are good that it can wait until after you write.)

“Writing practice is showing up at the page,” says Judy Reeves. “One of the best things about writing practice is that it IS practice. It’s not supposed to be perfect. You’re free to make mistakes, fool around, take risks.”

As I said, I will be starting two writing challenges for the month of April. They will involve two types of writing, equally important to your career, I believe.

Why Daily Accountability?

Is a daily writing practice really that important? You won’t know until you try it for several weeks, at least. But according to Judy Reeves, it has great benefits.

“A daily routine that includes writing will have more benefits than you can imagine, but just for starters (a) the writing will come easier, (b) you’ll write more, (c) your writing will improve, and (d) you’ll realize that you are, after all, a writer.”

I don’t know about you, but all four of those reasons sound wonderful to me!

What has been your own experience with accountability?

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14 Responses to Accountability: It Works!

  1. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    Thank you for this. I hoped that you would hear the hidden (then again,maybe not so hidden) plea in our comments for you to help us develop a system of accountability for our writing. I look forward to learning more about it in your next couple of posts!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Audrey, if I hadn’t seen the true value of this in the last couple of months of helping me out of a very “stuck” writing position, I wouldn’t attempt this. But this voluntary accountability has really helped me and the others in my mini accountability group. One of our people is in Australia, and so she posts way ahead of us. I am faced every single morning first thing with her “I did my 30!” so whether I feel like it or not, I get busy on my own 30 minutes. Peer pressure of the most positive kind! 8-)

  2. Bonnie says:

    I need deadlines and not deadlines I have imposed myself to be productive consistently. However, I want to learn how not to need deadlines to produce. How did I get this old and not figure out how to do that? This is a great idea.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Bonnie, I know EXACTLY what you mean! I can produce under pressure fine with editor-imposed deadlines, but I don’t like them sometimes because they can be too tight. I just kind of blow off my own deadlines! I’m not sure how either of us got this far in our careers without figuring this out, but better than never, I’m hoping!

  3. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    Yes…yes…yes. I can totally relate to this. Why do I need a deadline at this stage in my life? You’d think that I would have developed some wonderful self-imposed alternative to this by now. Well, you’d think wrong.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Audrey, thanks for your honesty. Me too! I originally thought, “Oh dear, I’ve written these two writing books and this blog for years, and now I’m admitting I only get my writing done daily because someone out there is waiting for me to chime in with my time/count.” I hope with the accountability, over enough time, we’ll all establish some great habits so that writing daily is no more difficult that remembering to brush our teeth daily. We shall see! :-)

  4. Deanna says:

    I am looking forward to the April writing challenge!

    The accountability of my critique group hasn’t worked for me. I need a mean ogre with fiery eyes and a pointed finger. LOL.

    Love your definition of a true emergency involving “lots of blood and smoke.” I will post that beside my desk in April, right next to my daily writing appointment.

    • kwpadmin says:

      I suppose the “blood and smoke” is a bit harsh, but I am so guilty of changing my writing plans for things that just aren’t necessary. I’m being overly nice, and often when saying “not yet” to someone wouldn’t even cause a problem.

      I will fire up my mean ogre eyes and sharpen my pointy finger now. :-)

  5. Accountability is admittedly not my best thing. Either I push too hard or not hard enough. I’ve yet to find the fabled “Cruising Gear” a lot of my writer friends have.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Then I think you are one of the people who could really benefit from one or both of the challenges I’m going to do in April. I’m in my third month of accountability, and I am finally hitting the cruising gear you spoke about. I think, for me at least, it takes longer than 21 days to instill a really good habit so that it is almost effortless.

  6. Shweta says:

    My experience with accountability … well … *sheepish* is very lacking. Patchy and dried-up, my experience with accountability. Definitely needs freshening up. Getting lax about writing daily and pushing through the difficult patches, instead ‘leaving it for tomorrow,’ is a bad habit I fall into for a couple of weeks at a time, every couple of weeks. Needs fixing. New challenges are always exciting – I can’t wait to see what it’s all about and then pressure myself into joining in. :D Because now you’ve mentioned accountability – I really ought to join in and see if I won’t benefit from it. I’m sure it’ll be fun and beneficial.

    • kwpadmin says:

      We all feel a bit sheepish, Shweta! All of us fall into bad habits, and yet we think we ought to be beyond that by now! Positive group peer pressure may be exactly what you need! :-)

  7. My writer’s group did this several years ago for one month, and I found it really worked for me–and many of the others, too. We signalled that we’d done our daily quota (we set those for ourselves rather than pick one wordcount number for everyone) by sending an email to the group with the word “done” in the subject line. A lot of those emails got sent at 11:55 PM, but that just showed how much people wanted to complete the challenge. Count me in. The timing is perfect.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Very good, Heather! The sign-up instructions will come next week. Thanks for sharing your experience with accountability in the past. :-)

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