Holding Yourself (and Your Writing) Accountable

22 Aug


by Susan Dennard


I’ve talked about productivity before. About how BICHOK is one sure-fire way to get your writing where it needs to be. About how focused practice is the only way to get better.

But what about those times when your self-motivation (if you even have it to begin with!) starts to flag?

What about those days where you spend four hours at the computer and write all of 4 words?

Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

On those days, my friend, it’s time to seek help elsewhere. It’s time to find SOMEONE ELSE to hold you accountable.

I mean, think about it: when you were in high school, you got your work done (or I hope you did…). Maybe it was at the last minute or maybe it wasn’t always your best work, but you finished. Why? Because someone else expected you to.

So why not put a dose of SOMEONE ELSE in your writing life?

It’s easy. Find another writer (or as many as you want!) and agree to talk regularly, share your goals, and check in often to make sure you’re staying on track.

For example, right now, the Let the Words Flow ladies are sharing their daily word count goals. In the morning, we all email how many words we want to type out before night…and then that night, we email to say how much we actually wrote.

I can assure you that simply knowing the other ladies are gonna see my daily progress really pushes me to keep TYPING! And, if for whatever reason one of us is flagging, we all shoot out upbeat emails–and when I’m the one behind, that support REALLY helps me get back on track.

So if you’re finding you need a bit more motivation in your life, I challenge you to find another writer who’ll hold you accountable and send you lots of smiley faces when you need ’em.

Is this something you would ever do? Or do you already have someone like this in your writing life?


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.


25 Responses to “Holding Yourself (and Your Writing) Accountable”

  1. Ashley August 22, 2011 at 4:55 AM #

    My critique partner is definitely the SOMEONE ELSE in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. πŸ™‚

    Great post, Sooz!

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 2:18 PM #

      Thanks, Ashley! My CPs definitely help keep me on track too. πŸ˜€

  2. Tim August 22, 2011 at 7:01 AM #

    I tried to do a word count and tell people online, but If I didn’t get it I got guilty. After that I’d spend less and less time at writing, then it turned into a habit, more guilt, etc. I’m just happy to write everyday:P

    Oh guess what.


    • Stephanie Relf August 22, 2011 at 2:06 PM #

      That’s awesome! Me too!!!

      • Tim August 24, 2011 at 7:03 AM #

        (Super High fives):P

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 2:19 PM #

      CONGRATS!!!! That’s super exciting. When do you start school??

      And yeah, sometimes the “external accountability” can just make you feel worse. I don’t ALWAYS do it–only when I know I need that extra nudge to get it done.

      • Tim August 24, 2011 at 7:06 AM #

        Mid-September. I’m doing Arts (wich is studying 4 subjects in 1st year and then picking two of those in 2nd). I’m going to study English, Business, Psychology, and History. If if get in the top 15 in Psychology I can do it proffesionaly. Ekk English will be fun:P

    • savannahjfoley August 25, 2011 at 11:35 AM #

      Yay Tim! Congratulations!

  3. farawayfarrah August 22, 2011 at 7:53 AM #

    That’s actually a really good idea.
    I can even see the benefit of just churning out 100 words a day, its better than nothing at all! I hate feeling guilt when you haven’t done anything and you drag it out some more.
    Brilliant advice again!

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 2:20 PM #

      Thanks, Farrah! We all have different goals in LTWF. Some are trying to get 300 words a day, others are shooting for 3000…and others are trying to edit a scene before the weekend. Whatever the goal is, we all send cheerful emails to stay motivated! πŸ˜€

  4. Asia Morela August 22, 2011 at 11:17 AM #

    It’s definitely something that helps! I’m posting the first draft of my story on FictionPress as I go, and the fact that two readers are waiting for my updates to give me nice, positive comments boosts my motivation for sure.

    My problem currently is that I’m still at school (well, doing a master’s), so writing fiction often means skipping schoolwork, and vice versa. 😦 I do feel guilty when I don’t write, but I’d feel even guiltier if I didn’t do what my supervisor asked me to do, right? Sometimes there are just too many somebody else’s in one’s life, expecting too many, often contradictory achievements from you…

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 2:21 PM #

      Oh, I can relate to that… When I did my masters, I NEVER wrote (or it was not often or much at a time). Sometimes you gotta just put the writing off since, you know, you’re PAYING to be in grad school (or someone is paying) and the writing will be there in a few years when you finish up. Then again, if you’re really passionate about the writing, sometimes it’s good to take breaks from school or use free time to get that creativity out. Goooood luck! ❀

  5. Meredith August 22, 2011 at 1:27 PM #

    Great post!! I don’t have anyone I report to, except occasionally my husband, and that’s normally just to bragβ€”I wrote 5,000 words today, babe! Normally I just try to stay accountable to myself. I set daily word goals, and I don’t let myself pick up a book or turn on the TV or do anything else that’s “fun” until I’ve hit my goal. It doesn’t always work, but most days it does. I’ve always been pretty good at self-motivation. πŸ˜‰

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 2:23 PM #

      Hahaha, I definitely brag to the hubby too. πŸ˜‰

      Yeah, I’m usually really self-motivated as well, but I’ve had this fear that I won’t be able to finish SS&D2 on time…since it has a big fat winter deadline. Fortunately, this “racing against my daily goal” has worked wonders! I should reach the midpoint of the first draft this week. πŸ˜€

  6. Holly August 22, 2011 at 1:58 PM #

    I’m pretty much like Meredith in holding myself accountable. It works most of the time, but once in a while I could use a kick in the rear too. πŸ˜‰

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 2:23 PM #

      Hahaha, and when you need that kick in the rear, you let me know!! ❀

  7. Stephanie Relf August 22, 2011 at 2:00 PM #

    My only other writer friend was the only way I completed NaNo in November, we would word war and occasionally I would treat us to a chocolate bar at college the next day if we got over our word count. Sadly she didn’t do Camp Nano and so I only got about 8,000 words done. Although it’s still 8,000 words, it was not as successful so I compleeeetely agree that friends really help! x

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 2:24 PM #

      Hey, 8000 words is a REALLY solid start to a novel. I totally wanted to do Camp Nano, but I found out about it way too late….and that prompted me to turn to the LTWF ladies for some back-up! And I’m really proud of how much we’ve all accomplished in just a few weeks!

  8. Emy Shin August 22, 2011 at 3:53 PM #

    I have tried doing this with 1-2 writer friends before, but — perhaps because neither of us really made an effort to keep it going — it didn’t stick. But I do think it’s a great thing. With only me to keep myself accountable, I tend to procrastinate too often. (Like now!)

  9. Jessi August 22, 2011 at 6:24 PM #

    I agree, having that accountability is essential for me. I have two wonderful writers groups and that has made all of the difference in the world for me to help me keep a consistent schedule. Knowing I have to actually bring a scene with me every week when I meet with my in person critique group really keeps me motivated and churning out the pages. I also have another group of my online writing buddies that I check in with and we all report our progress every Monday so that give me another extra push.

  10. Sydney August 22, 2011 at 9:13 PM #

    I find that I really have to push myself to finish a story/chapter/poem sometimes. What’s worse is when I know exactly what I want to write, but when I start to actually type/write, nothing seems to come out! Seriously, that’s one of my least favorite feelings. πŸ˜›

  11. CA Marshall August 23, 2011 at 1:33 PM #

    A few of us use #writeshove on twitter for those times when we need a good shove to get writing. We do word wars, send encouragement, and reminders to one another to get writing. It’s quite nice πŸ™‚

  12. brandimziegler August 24, 2011 at 6:06 PM #

    Eek! I NEED someone like this in my life. Will work on this…

  13. Secret Admirer (not cyber-stalker, Lol) October 9, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

    Susan, just a note to say that if the picture with the goggles is really you then you are one incredibly beautiful and sexy young lady. Just sayin’…


  1. Staying Motivated with Word Count « Let The Words Flow - August 24, 2011

    […] For the past week we’ve updated our word counts in a shared google docs, and it’s been incredibly motivational, as Susan mentioned yesterday, but I still maintain this chart on my […]

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