What One Thing Leads to Success in Life and Writing?

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That’s all it takes. I promise. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago I decided to go to two church services. One service is the one my husband prefers, and I want to support him, so I go. But the other service is one that I get so much out of. For some reason it resonates with me, and almost every time I go I find that it relates to my writing journey too.

Today was no exception.

I know, it’s weird that I’m talking about my church life on my blog, because typically writers are told not to discuss religion or politics. But I’m not going to discuss religion–just the message.

Today’s message applies to the business of writing and life no matter what your religious beliefs are, so I’m going to share it with you in hopes that it will help your writing endeavors. I hope to help you improve your writing goals and tactics for success.

Here’s how accountability can work for you:

1. Never outgrow your need for accountability. There have been times when I’ve told my writer’s group, I don’t need weekly goals. I write all week, more than I should–or something lame like that. I think that because I’m writing as often as I can that I don’t need to write down my goals. Wrong. Even the most famous and successful authors will tell you that they have goals and accountability partners. If I don’t have goals then important words don’t get written.

Accountability partners are people who love you, who care enough to ask the difficult questions–what did you get done, what did you do with your time, did you do what you said you were going to do, why or why not?

2. Avoid temptation. By being accountable to someone besides myself I spend less time on FB, Twitter, or chatting on the phone. It’s not like my partners are judging me if I don’t stay on task, but there’s something about making a commitment to someone besides myself that makes me achieve more.

3. Never believe our struggles are unique. One reason we’re not accountable in our lives is because we’re afraid to let others in. Are you? The enemy has convinced you that no one will like you, that you aren’t worthy of friends, or they’ll see you as a failure, someone who doesn’t write as much as she should–all bologna.

Think of why AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and Weight Watchers are so successful. By being in a group where you invite people into your life, into the specifics of your goals, your problems, your fears, you are accountable, you’re opening up to those who can make you accountable. When you’re a loner your success will dwindle because it’s too difficult to be accountable to only yourself. It’s too easy to lie.

4. Pre-plan. By planning NOT to fail you gain discipline and employ the work-ethic it takes to succeed. By setting goals and asking at least four people to “watch your back” and help you stay on the page, you’re apt to be more successful. For that week, day, or month, you think about how you’re going to reach your goals, what you’re going to juggle or put aside to make your word count, so you can save face in front of your friends and family.

5. Social Media. Pastor Denny didn’t talk about this one. I’m adding it. Think about it. How can you use social media to help you gain accountability? How much time will you spend on this as a past time? What if you use it as a tool to motivate others in your support group, or ask others to support you? Think about why it’s become so popular, why you like it. Part of the reason is that it lets others into your lives, lets them encourage you, pray for you, or listen to something you have to say. Let these media be your bridge to others, to help you find the partners you need to succeed.

6. It can be scary. Yes, it can. Who’s going to love you enough to say, whoa, to ask you the hard questions, and invite you to be accountable? If you have the mindset, “I don’t need anyone,” you will probably fail. You DO need others to succeed. Small steps help. By having others to hold you accountable, you invite others into your life. The reason it can be scary is because now we can’t only lie to ourselves, we have to lie to someone else if we cheat on our goals. And who wants to lie to a friend?

Start well–finish well. Finish the race. Start with small steps. Make the decisions today you need to make to take the steps. Be serious about who your partners are. More than four is probably too many. Choose the ones who will ask the hard questions, but love you when you fall short, cheer you on to do better, and pray with you when you fall.

Good luck!

What accountability tricks work for you? 

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  1. After hearing about sprint writing at a writers’ conference last weekend, I decided to try it out. I always post my sprints, in part because I love the feeling that others are along for the journey but also for the accountability that provides. Another good post, Michelle!

  2. Great post, Michelle. Deadlines are great for accountability, too. 🙂 When I’m writing a first draft, I set goals of 3k a day, 15k a week. Sometimes it’s 11:30 at night when I get the 3k. And sometimes I don’t reach it. That’s what Saturday and Sunday afternoon are for–catching up. lol But most times I meet the 15k a week goal. I’ve realized I need those 2 days to rest.

    • Wow! Those are great stats and goals. Thanks for sharing. It gives me something to work toward! I’m not sure how many I’ve been writing. Each day varies depending on whether or not I’m editing or writing a new scene. The new scenes are the best and the most fun.

      Keep going, Pat. Thanks for commenting and stopping by.


  3. Excellent post! Accountability makes such a big difference. And having a group of people who believe in you and support you. Thanks for writing.

    • Hi Danielle – As much as I think I don’t need accountability partners, I do. It really helps. I hope you have a few who you can share your prose with. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Proud of both of you. I was getting good word count but ran into major neck & shoulder issues. I’m adapting, adopting revised methods to solve, but meanwhile wish you both cont’d great progress.

    • Oh Delores – I’ve been there with the neck pain. At one point my hubby was going to get me a kneeler chair to type at because it hurt too bad to sit and write. I could only stand or kneel. Through time (and a cortisone shot in the neck) I’ve been able to play the piano again and write, but there was a time when I didn’t think I’d get there. I’m hoping your problem gets better soon. Thinking of you!

  5. This is a wonderful post! I have recently started working on a novel that has been in the back of my mind since high school. Now, since I have had two daughters to my amazing partner, he has told me to find an outlet and to get back into the writing that I so love.
    With caring for 2 girls under 2 full time, I don’t have much time spare for myself but my goal is between 300-600 words a night and I’ve been getting a little extra every now and then so it’s wonderful. Especially when my partner tells me to go and write instead of making time for him some nights, it really helps.
    I think that since he’s sacrificing our time together on a regular basis, it really pushes me and makes me accountable for being productive and making the most of the time I put aside to write.

    • Hi Rebecca – It really helps when those who love us are supportive, doesn’t it? Luck you. Two children under two is TOUGH, but if you stay disciplined it will get easier. Good for you for getting back into writing. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave me a note.

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