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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Are You A Productive Sheep?

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” Stephen R. Covey

I fear accountability. There, I’ve said it.

I need it; but I avoid it.

It hasn’t always been so. Early in my time at Bethel College (Indiana), I was invited to join a group called the Writers’ Accountability Network (WAN). You can still see me and the group
here.

Members of WAN began each month by sharing their goals for the next four weeks. At the end of that time, we all reported on our success—and where we didn’t quite measure up. In between, we encouraged each other.

I’ve never completed so much writing! In fact, while a member of that group I wrote the first draft of my novel.

What happened?
As I took on more responsibilities professionally—a good thing—I soon found myself over-committed—a bad thing—and left the group.

I’ve worked on the novel sporadically since then, never with the intensity and commitment of those days.

It’s time to again seek the accountability I need to be productive. The benefit WAN provided was that of Proverbs 27:17: “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (The Message). The fight for productivity won’t be easy; but I’m determined.

I need to make changes. I need to embrace, again, the power of being a good sheep.

Setting boundaries
The biblical idea of Jesus as our shepherd and us as His sheep has always resonated
with me. I have sheepy tendencies. In WAN, we were all sheep within the same pen. The fences (goal-setting, accountability, encouragement, and reporting) helped us be good sheep together.

What fences can I build now to get back that level of accountability?

Fence 1—Television: I can’t give up it up entirely, but can I use the hour or two I’d normally give to American Idol for writing? (Can’t give up Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy—that’s good writer TV. Besides my wife and I enjoy watching them together.)


Fence 2—Social media: It’s time to wrestle my email and Facebook addictions to the ground. There’s a place for both, but too much of a good thing can be a problem.

Fence 3—Mornings: While in WAN I got up early to write for an hour before reporting to my job—and it worked. I completed the first draft. I need to repair the holes in this fence.

Fence 4—Accountability: This is the gate to my sheep pen. I need to find a writing partner, another sheep, who will make sure I do what I say I’m going to do—and who’ll cut me no slack when I don’t.

I have a person or two in mind, but if you think you’re the sheep I’m looking for, send me an email: opusmle (at) gmaildotcom. I’ll get baa-ck to you.

What do you do for accountability?


Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.

14 comments:

Gina Hogan Edwards said...

Wednesday Night Writers!! WNW has been my accountability for the last, oh, six years or so. This mixed group of writers - mystery authors, YA, children's, romance, and literary, both published and unpublished - has been my gatekeeper. Every week on my long drive home after the meeting, I say thanks for these wonderful people who have helped keep me writing and writing better. A critique and support group like this is invaluable and every writer should be so lucky to have one.

Michael Ehret said...

Gina, sounds like a real benefit! I think the ability to get together physically can't be overrated. It can work without that (WAN was electronic), but face-to-face is so powerful.

Gina Holmes said...

I have a whole different accountability now. A publisher. They take care of a lot of the needs we have as writers for that and critique groups, etc. But this is a very good idea, Mike.

Ane Mulligan said...

I have both online crit partners and a local writers group. Both help keep me accountable. I need the social interaction, too. How a people-person like me became a hermit-writer is one of God's favorite jokes.

Michael Ehret said...

Gina H., one day may I have that accountability! LOL.

Ane, you have a great online crit group (!) only wish I had the time to participate more.

Carrie L. Lewis said...

Since my "day job" (artist) and my "second job" (writer) are both work at home, I keep a 'to-do list every day. Painting time is set. Writing time is set. The projects I'm working on are set. It's a great motivator to see things checked off the list at the end of the day. If I wasn't able to get to something, that's a great motivation to do better the next day.

I maintain a writing blog and an artist blog and post to each every week. If I miss a week working on my featured painting, for example, all of my readers know it Saturday morning!

Posting monthly goals at the beginning of each month and posting results at the end of each month is also a great motivator, though I confess I've gotten away from that this year.

I'm also a member of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and participate in a handful of crit groups.

But the best accountability system I've found is realizing my talents are gifts from God and that I'm accountable to Him for how I use them. The thought of essentially telling God 'Thanks for the gift of writing, but I'm not going to do anything with it today' is all I need to sit down at the computer or take up pen and paper and write even when I don't feel like writing (or painting, for that matter).

Michael Ehret said...

Carrie, I am SO jealous!

Terrie Todd said...

I, too, need an accountability partner and I, too, fear it. Having one day a week to devote to writing helps because I can't put things off til tomorrow. Tomorrow I have to go to my paying job! Here are my thoughts on TV: http://terrietodd.blogspot.com/2011/03/tv-or-not-tv.html
Great post, Michael!

Christine said...

For the past 8 years, I used the excuse that I can focus on my writing only during the summer or during breaks in the school schedule. As a full-time Christian school teacher, my schedule is closely packed. Those excuses went the way of the dodo bird this past November. I joined NaMoWriMo believing that however much I wrote, it would be more than if I didn't accept the challenge. Not only did I meet the challenge while still teaching full-time, I completed the book by mid-January. Accountability works!

I am working with My Book Therapy. We are trying to get some critique groups started, but I would love to find a writing partner.

Thank you for this post and the reminders of what can distract from our goals.

Michael Ehret said...

Terrie and Christine, thanks for sharing your stories. Just knowing that others feel the same way--and are finding success overcoming--is encouraging.

Jennifer said...

Wrestle your social medias to the ground? Aren't you being a bit drastic here? Ouch! Great article, thanks!

Michael Ehret said...

Jennifer, sorry I cannot answer this right now, I'm not (supposed to be) connected to social media.

Kathy Harris said...

Very encouraging, Michael! I had an accountability partner one summer, and we also agreed to pray for each other. I did a lot of writing during that time. It works!

Michael Ehret said...

Thanks Kathy ... I'm starting to look forward to it.