I fear accountability.
There, I’ve said it. I need it; but I avoid it. But 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). 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.
So I've learned something: I need accountability to be productive. As Proverbs 27:17 tells us: “In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.” (The Voice). That was the benefit WAN provided. I need to make changes. I need to embrace, again, the power of being a good sheep. Here’s how I do it. Maybe it will help you.
Setting boundariesThe 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. These are the fences I need to build now to get back some of that accountability.
- Fence 1—Television: I can’t give up it up entirely, but I can cut back by at least an hour or two a week. (Can’t give up Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy—that’s good writer TV!)
- Fence 2—Social media: It’s time to wrestle my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter addictions to the ground. There’s an important place for social media, but too much of any 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'm not sure that will work with the job I have now, but how can I repair this hole in my fence?
- Fence 4—Accountability: This is the gate to my sheep pen. I need writing partners, other 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.
Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.