Accountability or GTFO
How I turned my people-pleasing weakness into one of my biggest strengths.
Accountability is my superpower. If someone’s holding me accountable to do something, you better believe I’ll get it done.
I used to feel self-conscious about requiring accountability. It felt like just another way to feed my inner people-pleaser.
Then I took Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz and discovered that I am what Rubin calls an “obliger,” someone who relies on external accountability to get things done—even things I want to do. Obligers perform best when deadlines are involved.
Once I accepted my obliger tendencies and decided to think of my perceived weakness as a strength, my writing got better. Here are a few ways I’ve held myself accountable to write.
A few years ago, I embarked on a 100 day writing challenge, during which I wrote at least 1,000 words a day for 100 days in a row. To hold myself accountable to complete the challenge, I posted about it on Instagram every day, knowing that my close friends and family would take notice (and therefore nag me) if I ever missed a day.
This challenge completely changed my writing practice. Ever since I completed it, I’ve had a much easier time sitting down and clicking into writing on an almost-daily basis.
If you’re interested in learning more about my experience with this writing challenge, check out the article I wrote about it for Babes Who Hustle!
To make sure I had time to write during my 100 day challenge, I plugged my writing time into my Google Calendar. My Gcal held me accountable to treat my writing time like any other appointment—it became something I had to show up for on time. If something came up that required me to sacrifice my slot of writing time, I’d move it to the next open window on my calendar. Giving myself a specific time to write made me much more likely to actually do it, as opposed to saying, “I’ll write whenever I get home tonight” (a recipe for disaster for an obliger like me).
Earlier this year, I enrolled in a nine-week accountability program called Finish What You Start with the writer Chelsea Hodson. At the beginning of the program, Chelsea and I talked on the phone to plan my weeks ahead based on a specific goal I wanted to achieve—finishing a novel draft. I had to report to her on my writing progress every Friday, and she’d respond with helpful advice and words of encouragement.
I took this program very seriously for two reasons:
Chelsea is one of my favorite writers, so disappointing her by not reaching my goal was not something I was willing to do. Adorable, right?
I paid to be part of the program, so I knew I’d be wasting my money if I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. In the best way, this felt like paying for a gym membership to increase my likelihood of exercising.
I reached my goal and finished a full novel draft during this program (pictured above, printed out on pink paper—yet another page I took out of Chelsea’s book). The biggest reward was feeling totally equipped to tackle the next draft after the program ended!
Chelsea is planning to host her accountability program again in the fall, which I’ll certainly link in my newsletter once she opens registration. My conversation with her on accountability will be part of the next issue of Lonely Victories!
I never underestimate the power of accountability partnerships, either. Finding a friend who’d like to swap work with me and putting our swap on my calendar always motivates me to write.
Talk to a friend who likes to write, agree on a page count range to send each other, and set two dates—one for your deadline to send your work to each other, and another to meet up on Zoom to discuss it.
Accountability isn’t effective for everyone, though. And that’s okay! It’s important to learn what works best for you. I recommend starting with the Four Tendencies quiz and use your quiz result to set realistic expectations for yourself in your writing life.
Share your Four Tendencies personality type with me in the comments of this post! I’d love to hear about it.
How do you hold yourself accountable to write?
“I track my word counts using an app called Tally. I'll be honest, I don't do it every day. But when I do, it feels great to plug in the number and see my stats, which encourages me to do it more often.” —Kalee
“I do best with strict goals and a loose schedule. As long as I know what I'm supposed to be working on—right now, it's querying agents, writing and submitting essays, and reading fiction and memoir—I am generally able to keep myself moving.” —Caitlin
Got a writing accountability hack? I want to hear about it. Leave a comment on this issue of Lonely Victories!
Really Digging This
Here’s what I’ve been reading and loving lately.
Tiffany Haddish’s memoir The Last Black Unicorn had me laughing until I cried… and then crying until I laughed. Her story of overcoming the foster care system and a history of domestic violence to become a hugely successful stand-up comic is a powerful one.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re interested in writing—which is why I know you’ll love Lily King’s latest novel, Writers & Lovers. It’s a story of novel-writing, grief, and falling in love, and I absolutely fell for it. Hard.
In the summertime, there’s nothing I love more than sweating on the beach with a book in hand, especially if it’s a book set in a snowy place that takes my mind off the heat. Eowyn Ivey’s novel The Snow Child, set in the wintry Alaskan frontier, is the perfect escape from the Florida summer.
Tell me about your Lonely Victories!
“I just had the centerpiece of my poetry collection accepted by a journal I really admire.” —Michael
“My pandemic-related insomnia finally gave my brain a break from news anxiety and instead gave me scene ideas related to a short story I wrote in the winter. Working through those scenes has revealed a larger narrative arc that I'm excited to explore.” —Rebecca
What’s a Lonely Victory you’ve had in your writing process recently? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!
Want to be included in a future issue of Lonely Victories? Answer some questions on upcoming topics and I may include your response!
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Special thanks to Becca Wucker for editing this newsletter and to Aysha Miskin for designing the banner image.
“Writing alone can give you a very deep sense of satisfaction and lonely victory.” —Greta Gerwig