Carrot, No Stick.
I’ve mentioned a few times that this year has been sluggish for me in the short fiction writing department. My major projects, (the novel of any given moment, and once in a while a play script) have proceeded on schedule for the most part, but the shorter, smaller things had been too few and too far between. So much so that my yearly goal of short stories written for 2016 was intentionally lower than that for last year.
Even this goal was looking unlikely.
Until one of my friends suggested we become writing partners.
Now, I am well on my way to my modest goal of short stories for this year, and have every reason to believe I will even pass it. All because we check with each other once or twice a week, to set a goal for ourselves, and to see how the other one is proceeding.
I am happy to report I have made my quota almost every week since we started this. The week I didn’t, I was just a handful of words shy by midnight on the final day. Had the Olympics not been on at the time, I would have gotten that one done as well.
What happens we one of us misses the mark? Exactly nothing. All carrot and no stick, in this set up. But it’s been just enough accountability for me to get some stuff done that I otherwise might not have started with as much fire. She’s not going to stop talking to me if I don’t make it, but I also want to make it because she knows of the attempt. Not that I think I’m impressing her by simply doing what I’m supposed to be doing as a writer anyway, but the short congrats from her at the end of the week is basically worth getting on with things.
I’m no Stephen King; I don’t write 5K words a day. But my goal has been the same for most of the time during this partnership, 2,000 words into a short story, or less than that so long as the story is complete.
I must say in all fairness that she too has almost always made her own stated goal for the week. She may have made it anyway, but this whole thing was her suggestion, and people don’t generally suggest things that they don’t think will be useful.
She has read an critiqued one of the stories, and her comments were helpful, but sharing the writing between us is not a requirement for this system. (Though I will probably share more in the future, as I don’t regularly talk to that many writers on a friend level, if you can believe that.)
So, if you are feeling like your not pulling the weight you ought to be pulling with your work, see if you can get a writer friends to keep your goal safe for you in their head, and who will gently check up on you sometimes. It could do a world of good for your productivity, as it has mine.
Of course, you may prefer a drill sergeant style, and that’s okay too. As I often say, whatever gets you writing.