Accountability is a key factor in producing results and exponential growth as a writer. Yes, sometimes it is easier just to “do your thing” and not worry about keeping track, but accountability has worked magic in my journey as a writer and I want to share my experience with you. It is my hope that through this post I can help you see the benefits of writing accountability, as well as give you an idea of the different ways you can be accountable for your writing.
My favorite quote on accountability goes as follows: “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” (Monson, 101).
The longer I pursue improving my writing, the more I see the truth in this quote. For ages, I was just “doing my thing” without tracking my progress. I would write most every day, but not really pay attention to how much, and I really didn’t have any goals set for myself that were more specific than “finish a book.”
My first experiences with writing accountability came through participating in National Novel Writing Month, and then this year, I did a few self-imposed experiments outside of that requiring me to track my progress. In doing these experiments and NaNoWriMo, I realized I saw a jump in my abilities as a writer versus the times when I was chugging along without any sort of accountability or tracking.
But why was that?
I realized as I tracked my work, I was interacting with my data every day and saw my performance. Once I figured out what my baselines were, I could see how to close the gap from where I was to where I wanted to be. It caused me to think about my writing process and encouraged me to think about what I could do better to promote higher writing performance. I also found I could quickly see when I was having problems, which encouraged me to think of ways I could fix them.
Methods of Accountability
I have found there is no “hard and fast” rule about how to be accountable for your work. Each person is so different and needs to interact with their data in unique ways. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some methods of accountability I have used and found helpful.
Word Count Charts
Word count charts are really incredible, especially if you are trying to output a draft. It is my favorite thing to see my word count increase rise when I update it. There is power in knowing how much you’ve done and trying to beat your best count from the day before. If you are a visual person, graphs can provide a burst of dopamine that can propel you forward in your word counts. I realize that many people don’t like to focus on word counts, however in specific stages of writing like drafting, I find it to be helpful in increasing output.
Accountability buddies are awesome because they can give you that mutual support of other writers who are also working towards bettering their craft. You can give each other encouragement when you have bad writing days, bounce ideas off of each other. Interactions like this been a huge motivator for me to get stuff done.
Writing groups are another great form of accountability buddies. They provide the same support and benefits as one-on one-buddies, however you’re expected to turn work into them to be read and given feedback. This provides a nice deadline for all you procrastinators out there (like me) as well as an actionable plan on how you can improve your writing.
Sometimes writing isn’t always about drafting, or editing, or revising. A huge portion of writing happens through brainstorming or other things that may not seem as active. Time keeping is a great way to account for this sort of thing.
I’ve been using this form of accountability most of the year and it has been educational. By tracking your time, you can make sure you’re spending time working on the projects that are the most important, while also preventing the little things that also move the needle from falling to the wayside. You can tell if you need to spend more time in one area or less time in another in order to tailor your time commitments to your growth. This can be done through time blocking on a calendar or through a simple time tracker like Toggl.
One other way I’ve worked to be accountable for what I do is through checklists. I’m not as religious in tracking my work this way, but check lists can help you get a visual on how much work you need to get done on your writing in a day or even a week. I, personally, use checklists a lot when I draft through my outlines, creating boxes for each scene I have to complete that week/month and so on. This method provides me with a good baseline of data on how much I can get done at one time.
What other methods of accountability have you used? Let me know in the comments below!
Monson, Thomas S. “Thou Art a Teacher Come from God.” Improvement Era, December, 1970, p. 101.