Last week I wrote about accountability and how to hook up with outside sources to help you keep your writing on track (and make writing buddies in the process). If you missed it, you can read it here: The Accountability Factor.
Now let’s talk what you can do right now and for yourself. Face it, the more accountability you can set up, the better your chances of keeping the writing going during those dark times. (I always call this I’m-Not-In-My-Happy-Writing-Place.) I think up ways to “trick” myself into writing and I find I’m fairly easily to manipulate. I actually write more. Here are five quick tips to help up your accountability-o-meter.
1. If you’ve done any reading on motivation lately, it’s all about making good habits. This is true of anything: eating healthier, exercising, saving money, so why not try it with writing? Make writing a habit. Stop telling yourself you need a big chunk of time to write, or that you don’t have time, or that you don’t have the energy. That simply doesn’t work in your favor. Be good to yourself. Write. Just face the page for 10 minutes a day to start for 30 days. One paragraph. You have the time and energy for that! Voila! Habit! And a good one. The small amount of time you spend writing will quickly grow into more, just like one page turns into 354 after a year. And golly, look at that. You’ve habited yourself right into writing a book!
2. I hate the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” for several reasons. It’s too cleverly “pat” and it sounds smug, but I mostly hate it because it’s totally true. So don’t plan to fail. Plan your writing time then show up. This step also will help you accomplish step #1, so there you go. Two for one.
3. Keep track of your word count and if you plan to write 500 words a day, set up a spreadsheet totaling 500 words a day. Not only will you give yourself a goal to shoot for, you will instantly see, before you even start writing, how your writing will add up. Give yourself the weekend (or a couple of days) off in case you need to catch up. Seeing your progress on a sheet will help you keep in the right direction, and when you hit those big milestones (5,000 words, 10,0000 words, 20,000 words) you will feel an enormous sense of accomplishment. Seeing how many words you have to write in a day will also keep you focused and in your chair for the duration it takes. Or, will motivate you to return to your chair after your break if you aren’t there yet. (Hint: you can escalate the amount you write by week until you are at that golden 1,000 words a day goal—or any number you set for yourself.)
If you are in the revision phase of your writing, give yourself a page count goal of pages to go through and revise. Go through 5 pages a day, 10 pages, whatever works with your schedule. The point is to set a goal you can make, and most likely you will exceed what you set for yourself.
4. If step #3 doesn’t work for you (or even if it does) get a timer and duct tape yourself in your chair for the amount of time you planned (see #2—notice how these all dovetail into each other?) Click here for my favorite online timer and the best part is that you can program it to applaud when you are done. Much more gratifying than a buzzer.
5. If you don’t like keeping word goals, or in addition to #3, keep track of your time on a spreadsheet. I love spreadsheets for stuff like this as opposed to doing financial work. Add up your writing time. You’ll be thrilled when you hit 100, 200, 300 hours. It’s like hearing a crowd in a stadium cheering…for you! Plus, when you get off track it’s easy to see, and sometimes you can identify trouble spots and schedule around them. A month (turning into a season turning into a year) won’t pass with you wondering where it went and why you didn’t write. Keep track and time won’t slip silently away.
I keep track of word count and time, which is double-gratification. Hey, I figure I need all the help I can get:)
10. Reward yourself for a job well done. This is the step we most often forget, but an important one to keep. You respond just like anybody, including Pavlov’s Dogs, and a reward gives positive reinforcement. I like to reward myself with something that doesn’t cost anything—some guilt-free pinterest time, an hour with my favorite book, or even some time to glue photos I’ve gathered and make a book collage (see Visuals as a Writing Prompt). Of course, re-watching an episode of Downton Abbey is fun and free too.
There you have it. Choose your favorite, pick a few, or try them all![author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://howtowriteshop.loridevoti.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/KathyColum.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion,” available online and in bookstores everywhere. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, “Between the Lines.” She writes from a log home in the woods of southwestern Wisconsin that she shares with her husband and three cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com[/author_info] [/author]