How accountable are you? Are you self-motivated? A self-starter? Or are you like most of us, beating yourself up because you have writer’s block, your muse is off on vacation somewhere and you just don’t feel inspired to write today?
This Week’s Blog Post is Personal
I have to admit, I’m just as afflicted with the “procrastination gene” as anyone, but I’ve learned a few ways to get past it. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, just get over yourself!” and dredge up the willpower to put down that trashy novel or turn off the boob tube and start to write. No, I need a system to make myself accountable.
Generally speaking, human beings tend towards a habit of procrastination unless we are accountable in some way to others. It’s normal to want to take things easy, rest on our laurels or coast through life unless there is some compelling reason to keep our nose to the grindstone. We push ourselves in order to make a living, so we can pay for the things we want or need, to support ourselves or our families, but when it comes to our own dreams, often we relegate them to the back burner, to accomplish “some day”, when the time is right.
The Loneliness of the Solitary Writer
Being any kind of creator, but especially a writer or memoirist has a big down-side which is the main cause of the dreaded writer’s block. You must spend a lot of time alone and quiet inside your own head, and often that enforced solitude leads to self-doubt.
I’m in awe of those creators who know exactly what they want to write, paint or compose, and never let anyone or anything get in their way. I’ve always been envious of their single-minded dedication to their art, but for myself, I always had some excuse or other: “I could never be like them. I have too many other responsibilities. I’m too scattered. Writing a book is a big job and I don’t have enough time to do it properly. I don’t know where to start. I need to wait for inspiration to strike. Hence: writer’s block.
The longer I waited, the less likely was the possibility that long-awaited inspiration would have anything to do with me! I’d end up not doing anything creative for months on end, until finally, I reached a point where I lost my love of painting, and nearly lost my love of writing.
But fortunately, I discovered how to “just get over myself!”
The Power of Accountability
After several months, I became so disgusted with my own apathy that I forced myself to get out of the house and join a local seniors’ writing group. Each week, we have a topic — a word or phrase that we can use as inspiration. Just knowing that I’ve got to have something to read to the group by Monday afternoon gives me the impetus to get something down on paper or computer screen. Maybe it’ll be crap, but at least I’ll have written something. The deadline demolishes inaction.
Often I’ll discard the week’s topic in favour of something more to my liking, but almost always, a piece gets done. Just the knowledge that I’d have to get up and say, “I didn’t write anything this week,” in front of a group of people whose opinions I respect, is enough to get my bum in the chair and my fingers on the keys. Of course, more often than not it’s finished at the last minute before I rush out the door, but it does get done. Usually.
Sometimes, the chosen topic gives me an idea or an insight that sends me in an unexpected direction and I discover new aspects about myself and my motivations, or perhaps a buried memory that hasn’t surfaced in years. Writing, especially memoir-writing, is a fascinating process, and I wouldn’t have continued without my weekly group meetings — kinda like A.A., but for writers.
I also have in an accountability buddy and she kicks my butt! Several times a week, we check in with each other on our separate projects. Both of us are building online businesses, and if I hadn’t promised she’d be getting my email on Thursdays, I’d be tempted to skip doing my weekly blog post. But I don’t want to disappoint her. I’m accountable to her. So I write the week’s article that gives me (and hopefully you) insight into the creativity process and the motivation to keep writing.
Re-engage Your Muse and Kick Writer’s Block to the Curb
If you’re struggling with writer’s block, and the whole process of writing your memoirs, maybe you could do as I did. Find a local writers’ group and ask to join them to discover if they’re a good fit for you. Many writing groups are genre-specific, for example: writers of romance or fantasy, short fiction or novels, or even, if you’re lucky, non-fiction narrative, autobiography and memoirs. However, most are more general, with genre left up to individual choice. Most communities have at least one writers’ organization, and a lot of seniors’ communities and residences have a writers’ club.
Alternatively, find another writer or two (or more) and form your own accountability group. Next week, I’ll post a checklist of guidelines you can use to start one. You can decide if it’s to be a social club, a critique group or perhaps a more structured skills-development group with formal lessons and workshops on creative writing, which you can apply to writing memoir or any other literary endeavour.
Beyond simply the accountability, you’ll find that the discussion between writers about the process of writing and how your work can be improved is invaluable. An accountability group or writing buddy can give you motivation, inspiration and perseverance when your muse goes A.W.O.L.
And besides, it’s a whole lot of fun!