It’s so incredibly easy to put off any part of what it takes to write a business: you don’t have to write your piece until the day before it is due, no one will ever know if you don’t market your business today and there’s never any rush to work on a project that you’re doing for yourself. This is a fact that I’ve struggled with throughout my writing career — and it’s something that most of the writers I know also have problems with.
Simply put, there’s not a lot of accountability in writing. As long as you get your clients’ projects done by the deadline, no one particularly cares how you spend your time. All deadlines are self-inflicted, meaning that ignoring them can be a simple matter. That means that we, as writers, have to create accountability, to keep our work moving along.
Creating Accountability: Tell Someone What You’re Up To
At the most basic level, telling someone what deadlines I have in mind makes it more important to me to meet that deadline, whether or not the person in question is involved in that deadline. That’s because I have a lot emotionally invested in being known as a person who always meets her deadlines. The same seems to hold true for many writers: just talking about your plans and expected deadlines can create accountability to help you accomplish them. Of course, if that sort of reputation isn’t important to you, you may have to go a step further. You may have to get someone a little more interested involved.
One of the reasons that writers who participate in some sort of writing group seem to have better chances of being successful is because they make a commitment to write regularly and have to show what they’ve written to other people. There’s nothing inherently group-oriented about writing, nothing that a good individual editor can’t do that a writing group can do. It’s the fact that members of writing groups feel the responsibility they have to show up to their group every week with new pages to share.
That doesn’t mean that you have to join a writing group to be successful — personally, the dynamics of most critique groups make me run for the hills — but having someone else involved in your project that will expect you to meet your own expectations can be key. One option may be a significant other or parent who a personal investment in making sure that you’re regularly bringing in income.
Keeping Accountability Reasonable
Carefully picking who you will be accountable to is important. I’ve had days when I don’t do much of anything, followed by days when I put in twelve hour days, because I’m trying to be accountable to myself. Personally, I know I can be a tough taskmaster for myself at certain times. That’s been another reason that being accountable to people outside of myself has been important — other people can be a little more reasonable about what you need to get done than those ambitious inner voices that most writers seem to have.
Image by Flickr user Peter