Accountability - It's All in the Nudge

Most writers I know struggle with finding the time, and energy, to complete their writing projects. Many of us hold day jobs or have busy family lives that interfere with quality writing time. One thing I learned from nearly 20 years in the newspaper business is the value of a deadline. There’s nothing like it to get one motivated.

A book contract can provide that incentive (although there are writers who don’t seem to mind missing them repeatedly – that’s a discussion for another time). But what if you don’t have a contract yet? It’s possible to set your own deadline, but that’s not very effective, or even realistic. It’s easy to blow off a self-imposed deadline.

So, I’m going to suggest you gather several writer friends and create an accountability pool. My writing buddies and I have just done this.

With an accountability pool, it’s completely up to you to decide what your goal is and when you’ll complete it. Maybe you want to finish a first draft of your novel. Or perhaps it’s writing a certain number of freelance pitches to magazines by a specific date. A couple of friends of mine simply committed to deciding on a project by a date certain.

This is a low-pressure obligation. If it turns out you can’t make an initial deadline, it’s OK to change it. The important part is the accountability factor. And it works like this:

One person agrees to be the prompter. The group agrees to be reminded – or nudged – every so often. Weekly, biweekly, monthly – whatever you choose as a group. The nudger sends an email out to each group member saying, essentially, are you working on your project and how much progress have you made?

Our group calls this The Nudge Report (clever, these writers). You can call it anything you want. The Nag, The Push, The Mother-in-law, whatever works.

If you want to add an element of fun, you could include an incentive. If someone reaches his/her goal ahead of time, the others take that person out for drinks.

The bottom line is you have a commitment – a deadline – for writing and a group of friends holding you to it.

By the way, I don’t recommend you do this with family or friends who aren’t writers. They will make you crazy and will be less than understanding if you have to move a deadline. Which will happen. This is about encouragement, not guilt.

I’ll keep you posted on my writing group’s progress with it. Try it and let me know how it works for you.