Building External Accountability
Writing is often a lonely process. As such, it can be easy to think, ‘no one knows I’m working on this, so it can wait until later.’ Then ‘later’ turns into weeks or months without substantial progress. External accountability flips our mindset by forcing us to share our intentions with others. Research suggests that the simple act of telling others about our intentions increases our likelihood of achieving our goals. And while that small jolt in accountability is great, the goal is to maintain our accountability long-term.
The Right Kind of Support
The key to successful external accountability is finding the right kind of support. Friends and family are always a great place to start. However, their ability to help you achieve your goals can be limited if they don’t know how and when to push you. As a writer, having general accountability for your goals is only one piece of the puzzle. You’ll also want someone who can offer advice and provide feedback on your work. This means that you’ll want to be selective with the people you choose to support your writing dreams.
1. If you’re looking to be surrounded by encouragement and support, start by looking for a writing group. As I mentioned in a previous blog, writing groups are a fantastic way to receive feedback and learn from fellow writers. If you are looking for something intimate or interested in connecting with local writers, I recommend reaching out to your local library. They can help connect you to writing groups in your area. If you simply want to start by observing how writing groups work, there are hundreds of online writing groups to choose from!
2. If you’re ready to dive into some feedback, critique partners might be the way to go. Critique partners are fellow writers who provide feedback on your work from a writer’s perspective. These partners are often at a similar place in their writing process, which often results in chapter swaps for feedback. This can be particularly helpful for accountability since your critique partner will expect you to swap work consistently. You can find critique partners through your writing groups, or you can join this large community of critique partners and beta readers on Facebook.
3. When it comes to writing accountability, support, and feedback, writing coaches are the cream of the crop. Writing coaches intimately understand the unique concerns and challenges writers face and are trained to help you carve a path toward success. The job of a writing coach is to help you track your progress toward goal completion. While telling someone about your goals can help you achieve them, sharing weekly progress updates with someone invested in your goals makes you 33% more likely to achieve them!
Writing coaches are an investment in yourself, and their sole purpose is to ensure you meet your writing goals. An added bonus of writing coaches is that they are often equipped to offer advice and feedback on your writing. If you are serious about writing, a writing coach worth the investment, and I’d love to help!
Leveraging Friends and Family
Of course, there are many new writers out there who simply aren’t ready to share their work with folks outside their trusted circle quite yet. That’s okay! There are still ways to build external accountability without showing your work to the world.
1. Consider identifying one trusted friend or family member who is agreeable to receiving weekly progress updates. As I mentioned, progress reporting is predictive of goal success. Setting a weekly deadline to send progress reports to your trusted progress appointee will help you stay focused and increase productivity.
2. You can step up the progress report strategy by creating a writing agreement. This agreement should be written similar to a contract and include your goals and milestones. Both you and a friend will sign and date the document as a ‘binding agreement.’ The catch is to include a ‘breach of contract’ penalty. For example, if you don’t meet milestone 1, you buy dinner. It can be any ‘penalty’ you see fit but it should motivate you to stay accountable to your goals.
3. If you’re just looking for someone to check in with regularly, an accountability buddy is an effective option. These folks don’t have to be fellow writers but I recommend finding someone who is looking to accomplish a goal in a similar timeline. The idea is to hold one another accountable by setting goals and standard meeting times to check in on progress.
No matter where you are in your writing journey, external accountability is an effective way to maintain your progress and achieve your goals. Consider trying a few of these strategies during the next few weeks. Use a journal to track your progress and add the most helpful tips to your accountability strategy.