We’ve loved having Jessica Conoley here the past three weeks to discuss the three vital pieces of support that every author needs. Today, she’s closing out this series by discussing the importance of accountability.
In the past two posts we’ve covered where to turn when you want to improve the quality of your writing with the help of Critique Support, and how to find motivation and inspiration by finding Mentors. It’s time for us to shore up that final leg of your Writing Support Triangle. The part that helps us get in the day’s words, or edits, or marketing.
If balancing all of the responsibilities of life, plus our ambitions as a writer, feels impossible and you find yourself doing everything but writing, it’s time to reach out to your Accountability Support.
Accountability is tricky. You have to dig into your personal motivations and fear. Once you understand your motivations, it is a lot easier to find the right accountability tools.
If you highly value other peoples’ opinions, consider a public commitment
- Declare “I am a writer.” Publicly. This creates psychological ownership of your writing aspirations. People will ask you what you write, and avoiding the awkward, “Ummmm, nothing right now…” is great motivation to keep you writing. Work up to telling your friends and family after practicing on a few strangers.
- Create a newsletter. Decide how often you are going to send out the newsletter (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). Tell people you’re trying an experiment for three months and would they please sign up. Stick to it for one quarter. After three months, if you’ve enjoyed the experience, keep going. You’re creating a direct link to readers, which translates to building your platform. And publishers love to hear you have a platform when you’re shopping that manuscript or book proposal.
- Post on social media about your writing goal every business day for a month. The internet is always watching. Someone will be inspired by you following your dream. Someone is counting on you to succeed in your writing, because if you can do it, then maybe they can too. Someday, a random stranger may say, “You inspired me. I just finished my first short story.”
If you hate wasting money, consider a financial commitment
- Pay to join a class, workshop, or Patreon offered by one of your writing mentors. Classes and workshops provide the opportunity for feedback on your work. Patreon subscriptions let you see behind the scenes of an experienced writer’s career and get you a step closer to your mentor. It’s always beneficial to surround yourself with like-minded writers committed to finishing their work, and these new acquaintances may end up being good accountability partners.
- Invest in an editor, coach, or therapist. Editors know industry trends; they will dissect books in a way your average critique partner can’t. An edit letter tells you how to move your project forward. A book coach provides accountability and moral support. You may be surprised how much more progress you make when someone is reading over your shoulder. A therapist helps dig into mindset issues that are holding you back. Maybe you thought your problem was a lack of craft or experience, but a therapist might help you realize the real fear that’s holding you back.
- Reward yourself. If your goal is to write every day for one month, go to the bank and take out thirty dollars in $1 bills. Every day you write, add $1 to a jar. At the end of thirty days take the money out of the jar and treat yourself. Want to make the stakes even higher? If you miss a day, take all the cash out of the jar and start over, from zero, on your next writing day.
Financial investment is often a great stepping-stone to other forms of accountability. For my U.S readers, keep track of the amount you invest in your writing career. It’s likely a business investment that you can (and should) write off on your taxes.
If you hate letting other people down, consider a one-on-one commitment
- Find yourself an accountability partner—an acquaintance whose opinion you value, who is also working toward a goal. Your AP doesn’t have to be a writer, and they don’t have to have the same goal as you. Texting each other daily updates on your individual progress is great motivation.
- Swap work with a critique partner. CPs are writers you exchange work with and provide feedback for, on a regular basis. Ideally you will find someone at a similar level in their writing career. Agree on a page count, deadline, and frequency of work exchanges.
- Schedule a co-working session. In the digital era, we can co-work with friends halfway around the world, via video-conferencing. I run two-hour co-working sessions. We chat for fifteen minutes, work for forty-five, chat for fifteen, and work for forth-five. Looking at all the Zoom boxes and knowing other people are working as well is motivating. An added bonus for people with chaotic households is you can say, “I have a meeting.” Your family will leave you alone for two hours while you get your words in for the day. Co-working sessions can be a great gateway for people who are transitioning from corporate/work environments with a lot of inherent structure to a free form/self-motivated work environment.
It took me ten years and a lot of experimentation to find the right mix of support, but once I understood my motivations I was able to hone the tools that stuck. If you want to dig into your motivation a little farther, Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies quiz is a good place to start. The quiz is quick and lets you know if you’re the type who needs internal or external accountability
With a strong writing support triangle, you can move your career forward as you deepen relationships and help others. Taking time to build your Critique, Mentorship, & Accountability triangle now will give you a strong foundation that keeps you in this industry for decades.
Jessica Conoley connects story tellers and tells stories. She writes essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and fantasy. Her coaching services demystify the business aspect of writing by drawing on her past experiences as president of a non-profit and managing editor of a literary magazine. In addition to developmental editorial services, she offers virtual workspaces and critique groups as a way to foster creative community for writers. Learn more at my website or on Twitter.