If you’re seeking to improve your writing routine, do not neglect the power of accountability. This past year, I developed a daily writing habit. While a range of factors have contributed to my consistency, one tactic trumps all others: accountability.
I don’t particularly like the term accountability. Acknowledging that we need accountability isn’t fun, but if we can get past the humbling truth that we do better with someone (or something) holding us to our goals, we’ll be better off. Let me share a few ideas for utilizing accountability and staying on a path to more prolific writing.
The simplest method is to find a friend who will inquire at predetermined intervals about your writing consistency. Preferably, this friend knows you well enough that the accountability process will be comfortable for both of you. In other words, this friend needs to kick you in the pants if you screw up. It’s no good having an accountability partner if they’re bashful about giving you a hard time. At the same time, you need to feel comfortable with this person offering you criticism. If you can’t handle this person’s style of feedback, the arrangement won’t succeed.
If you can’t find a close friend, you should still do your best to find a one-on-one partner. This kind of encounter has the biggest impact on behavior because we hate the idea of letting down someone who will talk to us about our goals.
The frequency of these meetings is flexible. I recommend going for weekly. Just be sure to set a specific time and consistently attend the sessions.
For a great supplement to a personal accountability partner, find an online forum that allows for accountability.
Each week I post to a forum with fellow bloggers. A couple of my friends in that forum consistently offer feedback on my progress. Similarly, I post my weekly progress in an update post on beyondtheblinkingcursor.com. This process of posting weekly and getting feedback forms an important part of my process. The practice has solidified my habit. I don’t want to disappoint my friends or readers, so I’m very reluctant to miss a day.
When sharing progress about routine, it’s better to have real numbers. Just telling a friend, “Yeah, I did good this week,” really doesn’t cut it. You need specifics. I find two things really help with this: journals and apps.
A journal could be a physical book or some kind of digital journaling solution. I highly recommend buying something nice so that you’ll feel committed to using it. For a physical notebook, I’m partial to something leather, such as the handmade journals at Oberon Design. As far as digital journals go, many swear by something like Day1. It’s also easy enough to set up a journal on some kind of ordinary note-taking solution, such as Evernote.
The key with keeping a journal is to make it simple and consistent. Track your progression as a writer. Write down what’s working for you and what isn’t. Note your mood and your distractions. Jot down encouraging statements for yourself. Be brutally honest. I highly recommend doing this immediately before bedtime. Pondering your habit puts you in a great frame of mind for the following day and increases your commitment.
You should also consider using an app. These will typically be a virtual accountability, because most of them do not integrate with interpersonal accountability. I find that the simplest of these are usually the best. Be wary of overly-complicated accountability apps. These tend to defeat the intended purpose. If the app you are considering contains a plethora of features, you may want to look for something more streamlined.
A couple of apps that offer a simple reminder function for habit formation are Todoist or Commit. The list of similar apps is enormous. Try a few and stick with the one that most inspires your routine.
I need to recommend one last thing with regard to accountability and habit creation for writers: rewards. Find a way to reward yourself for consistent writing. Work this into your accountability. Tell an accountability partner about your specific writing goal for the week. (Examples include: maintaining a certain minimum word count or writing for a specific block of time.) Also mention a specific reward that you will give yourself when you achieve this goal. It shouldn’t be something that will distract you from your ritual or hurt your bank account, but choose something that you'll genuinely enjoy. This is a powerful way to reinforce your consistency. After you’ve done this, try pushing the deadline for your reward a bit further back. So, if you rewarded yourself after a week of consistency, move the reward to a period of two weeks, then three, and so on.
Creating and maintaining a writing ritual will boost your confidence and creativity on a daily basis. Follow these guidelines for setting up accountability to set yourself up for success.