Friday Roundup: Five Accountability Strategies

These are great for writers, but could easily be adapted for other goals.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Are you struggling to set pen to paper—or, for the majority of us, fingertips to typewriter? Here are five accountability strategies to get you (and your friends!) writing.

  • Critique Groups: A tried and true favorite, critique groups are great for getting feedback. But if you set expectations, they can also be used for accountability. So, instead of critiquing as things get written, set an expectation for what gets critiqued and when, and be ambitious. Set a weekly or bi-weekly meeting, in which everyone will critique a scene or a set number of pages. This works best for a small group (2-4 people), unless all of you have a lot of time. You read them at the workshop so there’s no homework, and everyone gets feedback. Most importantly, you’ve produced new pages.

  • Write-Ins: Get a person or persons who want to write in the same room. Chat for five minutes. Set a timer and write for 40 minutes. Take a break for ten. set another timer for 40 minutes. Give each other high fives. You can do this in person, or using technology. If you really want to up the ante, write with my amazing friend Rachael Herron, who runs an online accountability writing group using Zoom. For a fee, she hosts weekly write-ins. I’ve been so much more productive since I’ve started writing with this group and cannot recommend it more highly.

  • Word Count Challenge: compete with your friends to write the most in a week, or merely to hit your targets. Create a chart on googledocs, or use a fancy tracker. Do whatever works, but reward yourselves and each other for meeting your goals (or punish yourselves and each other for not meeting your goals, whichever works best for you).

  • Success Challenge: Either Kate Carlisle or Eloisa James gave me this idea when they were our guest professors for our MFA, and I love it. It’s getting together with your peers and comparing what you’ve accomplished in the past (week, month, year, whatever). Whoever the group decides has accomplished the most in that time frame buys the first round. I love this because it asks us to brag about ourselves and to acknowledge what our friends are doing. It’s competitive in the best way.

  • Mastermind: My BFF Jaye Wells introduce me to this idea, and we’ve been kicking it around since. It’s the idea that a group of ambitious people gets together to goal set and to help each other achieve their goals through encouragement, but also through offering their resources, if applicable. So, let’s say I’m in a group and someone wants to start a newsletter. I can offer my experience with Substack, while someone else offers their experience with MailChimp. Or someone wants to publish digitally. I can offer my experience with Medium, and someone else their experience with Vox. If no one can help, maybe we have someone in our extended circle who can, and we can share that contact information.

    The beauty of this concept is that it’s built on asking for help. I struggle with doing this, and yet there are so many things I could have done more easily or more successfully or earlier if I’d just asked for help. So this group isn’t merely about goal setting (which is important), but also about the tacit understanding that help will be asked for and offered, something we all need and most of us love providing.

So there are five things you can do to use accountability to help you in your writing (or anything you want to accomplish, really). If you have anything to add to this list or experience with these strategies, feel free to comment!

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