Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Through Accountability Writers Write

Deb McLeod Group Accountability
The single best piece of advice a writer can get is to write. Every day.

But let’s face it, it’s hard to get to the chair, hard to carve out time from our busy lives, hard when we aren’t sure how to go about it, and when we haven’t written in a while. Yet as a writer there is nothing more satisfying than finishing. Starting is more fun, to be sure. But finishing is the only thing that will get us where we really want to be.

If you already have a habit of writing, that’s terrific. Keep at it. And, once in a while, refresh yourself by challenging that habit from time to time. I ask my freewriting clients to challenge their time limits. To stretch them so their scenes don’t all have the same arc. Or to shorten them and force the brain to go deeper, faster. Challenge your habits and see what a charge you can get from the new energy you’ll have.

For those of you who don’t write regularly, what stops you from making writing a habit?
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of craft knowledge
  • The romance of the dream
  • Support
Perfectionism will kill your career before it starts. When I was a graphic designer producing creative work on demand and on a client’s schedule it helped me move into the ‘good enough’ space. When you’re on a client’s deadline you’ll let the piece go when the clock runs out. But how do you reproduce that motivation when you don’t have someone tapping their fingers just waiting for you to be finished? How do you manufacture goals for yourself?

Lots of beginning and intermediate writers don’t know how to achieve the effects they’re looking for. They know what they want but they don’t know how to get there. Sometimes the craft hasn’t caught up to the talent. And that’s frustrating. Because it takes talent to see that what you’re doing isn’t what you wanted. That gap is really very encouraging. But until you improve your craft to catch up to your talent you won’t close the gap.

Ah, the romance of it… this is the one that got me. I wanted the myth of the writer. Not the everyday slogging of the writer. I wanted to have written. I wanted the dreamy (and unrealistic) accolades without putting in the work. But the only way into the dream is by creating a daily habit of writing. The only way to any proximity of the dream is through the continuous exercise of the fingers.

Support can come in many forms. I know lots of writers who don’t have the support of their families and who almost have to write in secret. For those whose families support you, be grateful. The stories I’ve heard in my years as a coach of writers whose families don’t support their writing would break your heart. Even if you do have the support of your family, chances are they really don’t understand how writer-you ticks. They may not get how long it takes to write the book you’re working on. They may not think they’re bothering you by sticking their head in the door just as you get into your flow. All they know is that you like to sit in front of a computer and write. To them not much seems to happen with your writing.

The solution to all these problems is, of course, to create a habit. To create rituals, focus on planning, create a support system.

Rituals are a physical signal to your body that it’s time to write.

Planning doesn’t have to be a prison. Planning, even small planning, like what am I going to work on tomorrow relieves the stress of what to write next. It makes getting to the chair easier. And, you can always change the plan if you sit down and get a better idea.

The fact of it is that writers write. They get work done. Everyday. They plan. They don’t wait for the muse. They show up. Group accountability can make your job so much easier, more fun and bring you to the finish. Get my free guide to group accountability.

About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fifteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. For more, see


  1. Deb, you wrote this article specifically for me, didn't you? So much wisdom in this post. Thank you.

  2. I agree with Donnell. I'm guilty of perfectionism. Somehow the words on the page never quite reflect the vision in my head. Working on "good enough."

    1. Barbara, that was the hardest one for me. And the fix is both getting to 'good enough' and honoring the talent you have that lets you know it could be better. Studying the "higher" craft elements help close the gap between what you want and what you produced. Elements like pacing, subtext, objective correlative, etc. So the piece you're working on may be good enough and the next one will be better. Good luck!

  3. "They don’t wait for the muse. They show up." Oh, man, I like that. Great post.

  4. Great article! The "Perfection Problem" is one of my hang-ups. If I can't write it perfectly the first time then I can't write. It has taken me a long time to get past that (as far as I am past it at this point). I love how you phrased it, "...the craft hasn’t caught up to the talent." Excellent point!

    1. I'm glad that it resonated with you. One thing I did to break my own perfectionist habit was to learn to use freewriting as a tool. Because you write to a timer and because you aren't allowed to lift your pen from the page and because you write sentences like this one that go on and on and on without punctuation and not much thought only writing, it helps you get something your internal editor and perfectionist can mold and pick at later. :)


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