Guest Post – Lori Twining
Some weeks ago, one of our regular retreatants, Lori Twining, shared her retreating experience at Writescape’s fall retreat. But what if you can’t get away to write on retreat? How else can you keep the words flowing?
Have you ever considered an accountability partner?
Lori wrote about the magic of accountability partners on her blog in August, and we reprint it here today with her permission.
Accountability Partners: Are They Beneficial?
I have a simple goal: I want a writing career.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as quitting my day job and writing the damn novel. Other things factor into a writing career, besides having money to pay the bills. In 2021, as a writer, it is essential to have a social media presence, network with others, be searchable on Google, be knowledgeable and experienced with the craft of writing, have an agent, have a publisher, and the list goes on and on. It is endless.
Is a writing career something I can do alone?
Somewhat. The writing part falls on the individual writer. However, if you have other people who share your wants, your desires, and your future dreams of a writing career, then you should team up and do it together. Build an army. Challenge each other. Support each other.
This is where the benefits of having an accountability partner come into play. These people establish a relationship with you to help achieve your goals. They hold you accountable for what you said you would do and try to keep you on track, even if you are experiencing a meltdown of some kind.
Let me explain..
Yesterday, I sent out multiple emails regarding my volunteer role as a Blog Wrangler for my local writing group. Most of my writing group writes novels and short stories as a side hustle to their “other” careers (that pay the bills). All of us write blog posts that relate to our writing lives in some way. As a volunteer, I admit that I get tired and overwhelmed (sometimes cranky) at working behind the scenes for zero money and little appreciation. I’m not complaining; I offered to do this to further my writing career (if it ever gets further than barely existing). I admit that it is a selfish reason. Sometimes, I have days that I question my choices on volunteering. I want to quit everything and just write. But, then something like this happens:
During the frantic emails (and FB messages and text messages) back and forth with my writing tribe, I received a message:
“Has anyone told you that you should be a writer?”
I laughed. Reading this message broke the stress and frustration I had been holding tight inside. My shoulders released the tension, and I relaxed a bit. I wrote back to say, “Not lately. I’m too busy wallowing in a puddle of self-doubt right now.” I often wonder if all this writing is simply a time-waster, and I’m going nowhere. Several text messages followed to say they appreciated my time and effort, and I need to keep writing. This is one writer supporting and encouraging another writer. I love it.
Minutes later, the following email came in from another accountability partner. It said:
“Sorry, I am late in responding to you. Thank you so much for your accountability email (you were on time, I’m two weeks late). Ha! I’m never on time. At the moment, I’m sitting on my couch crying about not making any progress during July. I decided to email you and tell you the small amount that I did manage to find time to do. Then, I surprised myself with what I actually got done. This makes me happy. Writing it down, so I can see the progress. Yes, I was still a couch slug for most of the month, but I did submit two short stories, sent ten queries to agents, and updated my website so that if the literary agents ever decide to google me, I will look important! I might even fool them into knowing what I am doing! Thank you for this. I love you! Talk to you in a month. Or sooner.”
After reading this message, it reminded me to check in with a few of my other writing buddies. I have multiple people that I keep in close contact with, where we exchange emails on the first of every month (with many emails in between, just to keep us motivated). I keep a list of excerpts from their emails to encourage me, so I remember that working toward a writing career is not a waste of time. People do get something out of this. It keeps me moving forward with my goals.
My partners are inspiring
Here are a couple of example messages from them:
“Overall, I did awesome on my goals! I really want to say thank you for this. Having these goals keeps me motivated and helps to keep me working on all aspects of writing.”
And, this one:
“I am excited and scared and motivated and terrified all in one. I am so thankful for you and this accountability thing we do together. I have WORK TO DO… so here are my new goals.”
How I stay accountable
I write an accountability email at the beginning of the month describing everything I accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) from the previous month, and add my goals for the following month.
I exchange these emails with a few different writers to encourage them (or challenge them) to do “something” to further their writing career. And they do the same for me.
Here are a couple of examples that show progress in someone’s future writing career:
- Woke up at 5 am for two weeks straight. Butt in chair. Writing. 2-hr sessions.
- Published four book reviews for novels in my genre on Goodreads.
- Posted five Instagram photos of books I purchased written by my #5amwritersclub writing buddies.
- Submitted my short story to a contest.
- Attended Inkers Con virtually.
- Finished the Dan Brown Master Class on Mystery Writing.
- Ran a giveaway on Goodreads. Sent out the print copies to the winners.
- Attended two virtual book launches this month.
- Signed up for a 7-day IN-PERSON writing retreat.
- Took a course online, “How to Nail Writing Multiple POVs & Timelines” (this one is something I’m doing this month).
All of these examples keep you in the writing game. You are supporting other writers, networking, learning your craft, or writing the book—all good things.
Cutting Yourself Some Slack
The end of my July accountability email listing all my goals was this:
“My August goals are to tackle as much as possible with my writing, without breaking down and bawling like a baby because I don’t have enough time to do ALL THE THINGS that I want to do this summer.”
I received this immediate response from one of my accountability partners:
“I have a similar goal for August and the rest of the year. Now that I’ve had a vacation, I will try to go several days in a row without yelling/swearing at my computer screen. And that’s just for work. It doesn’t include the head-hanging despair during the writing sessions. Maybe we should ease up on our expectations of ourselves? Just a thought.”
This excerpt above is from an experienced published writer, and she has made a good point. I have high expectations for myself. Maybe this is why I am biting my nails to the quick? I’m walking the fence between giving up (by sitting on the couch watching every Harlan Coben Netflix series and not writing) and moving full force ahead with writing every chance I get, hoping my novel gets a little better with each pass through of edits.
Self-doubt is an evil monster, and accountability partners can help with that. They remind you that you are not alone on this path to a future writing career, and everyone struggles with so many things (and I don’t even have to mention the pandemic and all the stay-at-home orders that interfered with our mental state for writing over the last 18-months). They are full of motivation and inspiration. They can help you plan and strategize how to approach editors or agents. They can advise on improvement on your query letter or book blurb. Also, they can help you stick to your commitments and expectations, so you can continue to make progress.
We are all in a different place with our writing careers. Some writers are already published, and some of us are still struggling with that first novel (that would be me). But, overall, we are suitable matches for being accountability partners. We strive to be full-time writers and are putting in the work to get there. We all struggle with time management, primarily since we all work full-time or part-time for other people. So, being able to discuss it with each other is a bonus. It echoes the reminder that we are not alone.
Every little thing you can manage to do (writing, networking, reading, promoting yourself & your writing friends) proves that you are showing up for yourself and committing to the work. The best part of having accountability partners is that you can share your progress and celebrate everyone else’s progress too. There is no need for jealousy; it is all a wild and fun experience of living life to the fullest and conquering that writing dream. Together.
If you are struggling with pulling your butt off the couch back to your writing chair, maybe you should look for an accountability partner? They are perfect for brainstorming and bouncing ideas around, supporting each other, motivating, and inspiring you to continue with your dream. Plus, they are there if you want to cry or rant about something when you are grumpy or extremely pissed off. They are also there to laugh with you, and everyone needs a good chuckle from time to time.
If you don’t have one and would like one, just ask another writer if they would be interested. It is as simple as that. Good luck on your path. Baby steps will get you there. Eventually.
Lori Twining writes both fiction and nonfiction, with her stories winning awards in literary competition and appearing in several anthologies. She’s an active member of many writing groups: International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters In Crime, Toronto Romance Writers, and Ascribe Writers. She’s a lover of books, sports and bird watching, and a hater of slithering reptiles and beady-eyed rodents. Find more info at www.lvtwriter.com; Twitter: @Lori_Twining