Maybe you’ve heard of accountability partners. Maybe you’ve considered getting one. But what is an accountability partner, really, and how do you get someone to help?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, “accountability partner” is teaming up with someone who will keep you accountable for your writing progress. For example, your friend may check in with you every Tuesday to make sure you’ve written 1,000 words that week, and if not, you may jump on Zoom for a quick write-in.
Accountability partners look different to everyone because every writer has their own unique goals.
It may include critiquing, or it might only be a verbal check-in. The partnership can go both ways or not. Your accountability partner might not even be a fellow writer. Finding what works for you is what’s key.
Here’s how I set up my accountability system without anyone but me knowing.
As of late, I’ve spent most of my writing time revising rather than writing a first draft. That said, I have a hard time concentrating on one novel at a time. On any given day, I tend to have three going: One I am revising, one I am writing, and one I am dreaming about (or outlining). That way, I have different projects for different energies. (If I only revise, I lose my motivation fast.) But working on three separate projects doesn’t come without difficulties.
How do you know you’re writing enough? What time do you dedicate to which project? When will you get it all done?
These were questions I had to ask myself. When it comes to revising, I know that I need to get it done as fast as possible, but I also need it to be quality edits, not just speed. That’s why I put most of my energy into that project. That said, I know I need to honor some creative/writing time for myself. If I don’t, I get burnt out. Nevertheless, it’s easy for me to forget that and fall into a responsibility trap, where I end up drained and frustrated.
This was why I knew I needed to make a specific, time-set goal around creative writing.
That goal? Every month, I will write two new chapters for my monthly critique group.
Sometimes I send more if they have the reading time and I had the writing time. But I tend to only manage two chapters. That’s about 20 pages. It’s very minimal. But guess what? It’s better than nothing. Believe it or not, by the end of the year, I tend to have a full-length novel.
But do my critique partners know about this? No, not really.
Here’s the deal: I don’t have accountability partners in the traditional sense. No one is going to email me and say, “You told me you’d have X done by this date, so where is it?” The way I approach it is a lot more light-hearted.
No one in my group knows that my goal is two chapters every month. No one gives me a hard time if I don’t meet that. But every month, my iCalendar bings the week before our meetup and asks me if my pages are ready. If they aren’t, I focus solely on those pages until they are good to go.
For me, accountability is about giving yourself permission to set everything else aside to focus on that one time-set goal you promised yourself.
It’s investing in your work, your future, and your writing. Finding a pattern that helps you do that is key. Sometimes discovering that requires help from a friend or a family member (or an alert on your calendar). Don’t be afraid to ask those around you if they’d be willing to check in. That said, I’d recommend considering your goals before you talk to others. That way, you can tell them what you need.
Set a small writing goal, but don’t forget to consider your accountability.
I will write (# of words) every (time: month, week, etc.) for (my critique group, my website, myself).
If you’re feeling really brave, add stipulations: As I approach my deadline, I will set aside (TV, other projects, dessert) until I complete it. I will also not hesitate to ask for help on (laundry, dishes, childcare, etc.) if I need extra time.
Lastly—and as always—it’s okay to adjust your goals.
Even your accountability partner will understand if you say you can’t write the same amount of words in the fall as you can in the spring. Life happens. Don’t punish yourself for not hitting your goal. Instead, ask yourself why. Are you being too hard on yourself? Are your expectations too high? Adjust your word count or time, and try again.
It took me a long time to find my happy place with creative writing vs. revising, but I would never have found it if I hadn’t adjusted along the way.
For instance, I used to write 10,000 words a week. That number makes me gasp now. With a full-time job, a house to take care of, and the understanding that I need more time to be human, I’m nowhere near that output anymore. And that’s okay! I have new goals now. And with those, I am staying accountable.
What about you? Do you have accountability partners?