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The three time-management strategies I’ve discussed in Parts I-III of this series—The Block Method, Scribble Method and Reading Method—are just fine and dandy, but they do require discipline. Discipline, it just so happens, is not only one of the most valuable traits a writer can possess, but one of the most difficult to acquire. So, although I feel a bit like a schoolmarm, let’s talk about discipline.  

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition) defines “discipline” as:  v. 1. to punish or penalize for the sake of discipline. 2. to train or develop by instruction and exercise esp. in self-control. 3a. to bring (a group) under control. b. to impose order upon serious writers and refine their styles.

We’ll ignore definition 1 because it’s scary. Definitions 2 and 3, however, warrant closer inspection. Notice how all of these definitions in their various forms and nuances call for an external source of discipline. In all three cases, someone—not the writer—is doing the instructing, wrangling and/or ordering.

So, who is this mysterious magic-maker kind enough and stern enough to whip you into shape? Well, that all depends on how you choose to make use of The Accountability Method, a disciplining structure by which one partner or many agrees to hold you to your word, come hell or high water. Here’s how you do it:

  • Find an accountability partner – She can be a friend, coworker, relative, stranger (try posting on Craigslist, Facebook or Twitter) or WriteByNight instructor: try our private instruction, you’ll be cranking out pages in no time. Gain not one, not two, but ten accountability partners in a WriteByNight creative writing workshop. Your accountability partner can be anyone really, as long as she is a writer too.     
  • Discuss goals – Tell your new best friend exactly what you hope to accomplish and in what timeframe. You might say, “I want to write five pages a day” or “I aim to write a chapter per week.” Your accountability partner will do the same. You should both be as clear, upfront and realistic with your goals as possible. Also agree on a schedule that you’ll follow in order to monitor each other’s progress. It could be daily, weekly or monthly. Whatever works for you.
  • Check in – This is an accountability partner’s most important job. This is what you’re there for. Email, call or meet your partner according to the schedule you’ve agreed upon, no matter what. You’ll report on what you’ve accomplished and ask after what your partner has accomplished. If she’s met her goal, she deserves a pat on the back and it’s your job to give it to her. If she hasn’t, she could use a good, swift kick in the pants and—you guessed it—it’s your job to give it to her.

The sad fact is it’s the easiest thing in the world not to write. But that’s not a free pass. It’s motivation to get out there and do something about it.

So the next time you’re torn between your novel in progress and a rerun of Gilligan’s Island, remember: you can’t be a writer if you don’t write and you can’t write if you don’t make the time.

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