Boy oh boy am I in the writing accountability dog house. This is quite possibly one of the worst parts of writing for me and to be completely transparent, while I know the concept well and write about it quite fluidly, I am absolute trash at holding myself accountable for non-client work. I’m absolutely fine with client work and it’s because I prioritise it above everything else and then just go “meh” for things that don’t sound like cha-ching when I’ve finished it. Unfortunately, I am very aware of the fact that published books and blogs are a slow burning money maker and can make money in the long run. It’s just… I’m out of excuses now. It’s lazy, writing is time consuming and can be tough, and while there shouldn’t be any excuses, I end up just mindlessly watching TV because I am wrapped up in a blanket of “I can’t be bothered, do not want”.
As someone who has tried a lot of things for writing accountability and keeping a more consistent writing schedule, I’m more than qualified to offer up a few suggestions on how to move into the right direction. There is no wrong and right way to this. I’m never going to tell you to get up two hours earlier or stay up later than everyone else and utilise the silence in the house. If you’re here, then you know what needs to be done: put your ass in the chair and write. That’s all that really matters. How you do that is up to you. Use whatever method works for you, as long as you’re happy and achieving your individual goals. In the end, it’s just about whether you want to write, what you want to write and how you’re achieving it.
Why are you struggling?
The first step to accountability is figuring out why you’re struggling in the first place. It might be that you’re exhausted, sleep deprived or mentally drained. If you are, there’s no way that you’re going to be mentally able to focus on anything as mind taxing as writing. It’s hard enough doing a day job and running a household or looking after kids and/or pets, let alone trying to hammer out blogs for work and a memoir about making jam.
On the other hand, if you’re not running on empty, then you might not have enough oil in your system: passion. You need to feel a certain level of passion and obsession to hammer out a manuscript after dark. There needs to be something that drives you, pushes you to work harder, dig deeper, and put in those hours. Writing is hard, deeply introspective, demanding work, and it requires a hefty serving of passion, desire, blood, sweat and tears for a manuscript to magically appear in its whole form.
Make a goal and track your progress
Set your goal. If it’s your first novel, make it a short one, so that you can get the practice in and build the momentum. 50,000-60,000 words is acceptable for a first novel. Forget what elite writers are doing until you’re on novel #3 or have crossed 500,000 words in your writing career. Start small, build momentum, and you’ll be on the right track.
It’s really important to track your progress. You can use a simple app like Streaks or Done to measure your progress but also monitor your consistency. This will help to keep you accountable to yourself on a regulat basis. Make notes as well if you’ve had a particularly successful or unsuccessful day, so that you’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Noisy coffee shops are great for some, but I prefer the silence of a library, facing a corner or wall, with no distractions, headphones playing melancholic piano and bottomless coffee. Find what works for you and keep doing that thing until it stops working or you find something better.
Time blocking, calendar planning and timers
I have written about these before but they need a mention here. Calendar planning has become one of the most important facets of my life. It helps to keep me on track with projects and work tasks. I’m a little crazy with my calendar planning but I do find that time blocking has massively helped me stay on track with my writing, especially this past month. Having a timer creates a sense of deadline and a daily goal makes sure that I write a small amount each day to my manuscript.
Have an accountability buddy
This one is new to me and I’m not really comfortable with this because I’m such an anti-authoritarian control freak, but I know that it works for many people. Having someone to report regularly to who can push you gently in the right direction can be very helpful. I have a writer friend that I’m thinking of doing this with, but I’m unsure how it can impact our relationship so I’m hesitant. Try it if you think it can work for you, and if it does, be sure to let me know!
Consistency is important too
It’s not just about scheduling and accountability, but you have to be consistent if you want to write. Once you’ve established why, how and what you’re going to write, made your goal, set your schedule and identified your accountability buddy, you have to be consistent. The day that you procrastinate is the start of a slippery slope.
Writing is the single most difficult thing anyone can do. You’re bleeding all of your effort and energy into a manuscript for everyone to see. It’s a very brave thing to do, and I commend all writers, regardless of whether they have even sold a single copy.