This past month, I’ve been taking my novel Very Seriously. It’s been long enough of playing around with one page or another, or writing two pages a week; so I’ve stepped up the pace and I’m very proud of my progress. I’ve just about finished the drafts of two brand-new chapters, and significantly revised two others. That pushes me over the halfway mark, well into about 175 pages and the thirteenth (or fourteenth) chapter out of about twenty. Exciting!
What really got me going recently, though, was being able to see one of my former teachers. She came to town for a reading of her new novel and we got a chance to say hello, and she encouraged me to keep going on my own work. It made me feel just a bit accountable to someone for the first time in ages, and it was just the kick in the pants that I needed. So my suggestion to all of you is to find what person in your life is your kicker-in-the-pants, so to speak. Who are you accountable to? Who keeps you honest, and won’t put up with your B.S.? Who are you waiting to show your finished product to, and push the manuscript breathlessly into his or her arms?
Find your coach and referee.
Having someone like this in your life is a crucial step for both accountability and eventual success in large, ambitious writing projects. So this week, take a moment and consider who might fit the bill. I would argue that a close relative like a parent or sibling might be too close — we feel so emotionally “safe” with these people that we can easily ignore their nagging. They’re also more likely to be easy on you, and to praise you more than criticize. Instead, look for someone you admire, someone whose esteem you value — maybe, if you’re like me, someone who makes you a bit nervous. I’m talking about the kind of person you admire so much that after any interaction you go over what was said in your mind, trying to figure out if you made a good impression.
Ask for your coach’s support.
Once you’ve found the right person, consider asking for a little accountability from him or her. Ask if he or she’d like to see your novel when it’s done, or if they could read a few chapters. If she says yes, the challenge is on! Now you’ve got a finite amount of time to produce something great for your mentor. Just remember — that mentor is counting on you! You’ll be amazed by how much that little healthy bit of pressure can motivate you.