Deadlines & Accountability, Baby. I Need ‘Em.

Confession: I started working on a new novel idea. The old one has been abandoned for now because it wasn’t coming together like I thought it would. I guess sometimes turning a short story into a novel doesn’t work. But maybe someday I’ll try again with that one.

But this new one, it’s working. The story has a nice, strong heartbeat. All it’s fingers and toes seem to be there so far. The characters are coming to me so clearly and in focus that it’s a little strange, actually. And the story is making sense. Best part? I’m regularly inspired by snippets of conversation I hear, things I see, smells. I’m filtering everything through that writer filter again. Life is fodder for fiction.

To be honest, this time of year and our first full summer in this neighborhood by the shore are hugely inspiring. This story kernel popped up on an early morning walk, and every time I head out with the dog now, more of the story unfolds in my mind.

But I don’t want to talk about the story. I actually don’t want to talk about the story or plot or characters at all just yet. They’re too fragile. When they’re sturdier, then I’ll share them.

No, I need to talk about deadlines. Motivation. Ass-kicking. Sitting-down-and-just-writing. Or the impossibility of it some days.

When I was doing the MFA program at Lesley University (oh how I miss it), we had deadlines. Yes, it was low-residency and I did my work on my own time, but I had to have packets submitted to my mentor at the beginning of every month. That looming deadline was like a lighthouse, or a buoy, or the finish line. I don’t know– but it was what pulled me through my work. Some months I procrastinated, but I still got the work done.

The writing got done.

Now that I’ve been cut loose in the big, wild writing world with no mooring to grasp at, I get a little overwhelmed. I tried finding a fellow writer to be accountable to– we would create deadlines and check in with each other to report our progress– but that hasn’t panned out. I tried creating a schedule for myself, but I hate sticking to a schedule. I’d rather know what needs to get done and tackle things in whatever order feels right at the time.

I know I sound flighty. I’m a Pisces. I go with my gut over logic 95% of the time, and that includes disliking strict schedules.

But now I realize I need some kind of accountability. I know writing the story for the story’s sake should be enough (and it is), but getting started and plowing through are scary things. We all know that. I know resistance points us towards the thing we really must do, so I’m following my compass. It would just be nice to see the approaching shore, even if it’s just a small port to rest in for a while. I don’t have to see the end of the novel at this point; I just want to know that by this time next week I’ll be at 25,000 words or something like that.

So, friends, you’re my dock. At least for now until I hit my stride or find another writer who needs mutual ass-kickings on a regular basis.

By just declaring my deadlines and goals here, I’ll make myself accountable. Because you will be leaving comments to check in on my lazy ass, right?? I knew I could count on you guys!

Deadlines:

  • By 7/22 I’ll be at 17,000 words. To date, I’m at 4351. 1800 words a day for the next week will get me there– and that’s a very doable (NaNoWriMo-like) daily amount.
  • By 7/29 I’ll be at 30,000 words. Still doable.
  • On 7/30 I’ll reevaluate and hopefully up the daily amount. Someone kick my butt if I don’t.
  • By 8/1 I’ll have a final revision of a short story ready for the lovely editor Kate Estrop.
  • By 7/31 I’ll have the first draft of a new short story done.
There. It’s done. I’ve created arbitrary deadlines for myself in order to mimic the effectiveness of the writing I did in my MFA program. That should work, right?

What do you do to keep yourself writing? Sometimes “just doing it” is hard. Do you create deadlines or check in with a writing group or writing partner? 

P.S. If you’re a writer who wants accountability, drop me a line. Maybe we can figure something out.

3 thoughts on “Deadlines & Accountability, Baby. I Need ‘Em.”

  1. Kristin,

    I am the world’s worst at being my own boss. I push back deadlines on my content mill work, and get so overwhelmed with all the stuff I need to be doing, that I have trouble zoning in on and finishing just one thing on my mile-long to-do list. In fact, I am stuck writing for content mills because I have to pay the bills…and every time I push back a deadline, I’m likely giving myself less time to work on building my writer site, querying and cold-calling potential and better-paying clients. In fact, it seems like I have no time at all for all the things I really need to be doing. And it drives me crazy! When I was in college, and even when I first started my writing career, I would work circles around what I am doing now. Then I got stuck in a rut…and I’m trying to pull myself back up.

    My writer friend, Stephanie, who co-authors Getting It Write blog with me, is my accountability partner. Except, it doesn’t really work like it should. I used to ghost write for her–and when I did, I was a workaholic, never missing deadlines and always getting tons done. Now that I have branched out, she still holds me accountable, but it doesn’t seem to be as strict to me as it used to be.

    I’ve been sharing my goals in blog posts to help hold myself accountable, hoping that just knowing that my readers know will help me.

    I’ve always heard that the more people you tell you are going to do something–the more you’ll want to do those things so you don’t embarrass yourself by not following through.

    I’ll check in on you from time to time here at the blog to make sure you’re meeting your deadlines…or we can get in contact via email, facebook or chat, or something.

    Like

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