My public accountability experiment

Currently I’m working on a story for a speculative fiction anthology, and it’s not going well. Despite having (in my opinion), a great premise and great title – I’m finding it difficult to finish the story. It’s getting harder to find time to work on it, and when I do, I feel stuck or disenchanted with what I’ve written.

As part of my procrastination, I’ve been reading a book that delves into why we do things that aren’t in our best interests. Written by science writer, David DiSalvo, the book is titled What makes your brain happy and why you should do the opposite. In one chapter, he explains motivation and how public accountability, ie making a public commitment, can motivate you to achieve your goal. It’s often used by weight-loss companies as a strategy to help people lose weight. The idea is, you make a public announcement, maybe via a notice on a noticeboard or in front of a group. The motivation to reach the goal comes from the embarrassment you’ll feel if you don’t reach the goal.

I admit embarrassment is not a pleasant source of motivation. But after getting halfway through DiSalvo’s book I’ve come to realise what’s best for me isn’t always pleasant. However according to DiSalvo, research revealed great results for those who made a public commitment – even for people who are not easily influenced by the opinions of others.

In the past, making a public commitment hasn’t worked that well for me. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo twice. The first time, work swallowed all my free time, meaning I barely managed 10,000 words. The second time I wrote 30,000 words – well short of the requisite 50,000. I think what happens is I believe writing 50,000 words in a month is unachievable. Either that or I’m not particularly influenced by what others think of me and my writing capabilities.

This goal, though, is different to the NaNoWriMo goal. The word count (2,000-12,000) is achievable, I’m comfortable with the story’s structure and I’ve got a reasonable draft ready to be revised. I really want to send my short story off in time to be considered for the anthology, so I’ve decided to try public accountability as a motivator.

Here then, is my public commitment:

My speculative fiction short story is to be completed, proofread, formatted, tinkered with and finalised. On Wednesday the 26th of February, 2014, I will email the story off to the publisher.

Will my story be accepted for publication? After the 26th of February, it’s up to the editor. For me though, this time round, it’s all about the deadline.

What motivates you to meet your writing goals?
Have you shared your goals with your writing group or participated in NaNoWriMo?
Did being publicly accountable work for you?

Click here if you want to find out more about DiSalvo’s book.

4 thoughts on “My public accountability experiment

    • PiBoldMo sounds a lot more fun than NaNoWriMo.

      I wish personal commitment worked for me. I can be flaky when it comes to my own goals.

      Mind you, having someone else tell me to reach goal X can work for me. Last year my doctor told me I should lose weight. Just having a medical professional tell me this has given me the motivation to improve my diet and exercise more (and as a consequence lose weight).

      Maybe, as Marc says (below), I am taking writing too seriously.

  1. I go about writing entirely differently. It can’t be a pressure thing for me, otherwise I’ll walk away. Writing is fun to me. When the fun stops, I stop. I write when I feel like it. I don’t buy the “you must write every day stuff.” Nope, not me. When I get an idea, that enough is motivation. If I hit a block. I walk away for awhile and come back to it later. If it stinks in review, I don’t bother with it right now…I just keep going, getting it all down first regardless of how disfunctional it may be. It’s just important to get the gist of it down while “you got it.” I’ll fix the crap later. You are tormenting yourself way too much. Breathe. Have chocolate. Go back to it when you feel its natural presence beckening you…not when you feel guilt….so much for my thoughts. Good luck.

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