There was a very brief period in my life when I decided to try running as a sport. As a non-runner it was hard for me to find the find the discipline to stick with it, so I enlisted a friend as a Jogging Buddy. Our goal was to be partners-in-support, attempting to get up at the crack of dawn each week to jog together.
We gave it a good show but in the end, while we had pictured ourselves doing a little more of this:
More often than not we’d end up at a coffee shop doing this:
Alas, I’m not a runner. But I did learn one invaluable tool that I now use steadily in my writing life:
I’ve had the same Writing Buddy for many years now, my friend Natali, a talented writer whom I first met when we were PEN Emerging Voices Fellows together.
We’re not critique partners (which is a little bit different of a thing, though still necessary to the writing life)—we rarely exchange pages. Our buddy-ship is purely for one thing:
To hold each other accountable to our individual writing goals.
Now I’m sure there are lots of variations on the Writing Buddy, but the way my buddy and I work is that we have a weekly Writing Date to write together. Although it’s probably not what you think—we live on opposite ends of our state so we don’t actually sit in the same room physically writing with each other.
Our dates go something like this:
*She calls me on the phone (same day and time each week).
*We talk briefly about our individual writing goal for that date. It could be anything from crafting a new scene to revising old pages to brainstorming, to even more pragmatic and boring stuff like entering handwritten revisions into the computer.
*After we state our goals we say good luck and hang up; I set a timer.
*When the timer goes off and date’s officially over, I call her back.
*We ask: “How’d it go?”
This is the part that I find the most helpful—re-connecting after our date to find out if we achieved the goal/s we had set. A creative check-in.
Sometimes I’m successful and it feels really good to share (“I wrote a whole new scene!”)
Other times, the date doesn’t go as planned (“I didn’t do anything but stare at a blank screen the Whole. Entire. Time.”) This one actually happens more than I’d like, but my awesome buddy always replies: “It’s okay, at least you showed up.”
Whatever we individually accomplished, our date always ends with genuine and positive encouragement. The next week, we do it all over again.
Finding a balance with writing, as you know, can be so hard… we all have our obligations. While I’m trying to revise my upcoming MG novel I’m also balancing parenting plus a full-time job, so my writing routine’s not always clockwork. Still, having a buddy to check-in with regularly gets me closer to my goals, even if it’s just baby steps. And we rarely cancel on each other—I know that she’s counting on me to check-in with and vice-versa, which makes the “holding yourself accountable” part something that begins to solidly happen.
Having a Writing Buddy has helped me:
*Learn how to set specific writing goals
*Feel like I’m not the only one attempting this solitary endeavor
*Feel no real pressure to write, just to “show up” (which is still a tremendously important part of the process in creating a writing habit!)
So if you’re in need of some encouragement and a way to stick to (and build on) your goals, I highly recommend finding yourself a buddy. Once you get going you might feel something like this:
What are the tools you use to hold yourself accountable to your writing goals? Please share in the comments!