by Janis Susan May
When the writing is going well, it’s hard to pull us away from the computer. Words sing in our mind and dance from our fingertips. When the writing is going badly, it’s amazing how many things have to be done before we can force ourselves to sit down to write. When the writing is going really badly, it doesn’t matter what we do the muse remains stubbornly silent, the flow of words simply stops and we have no idea how to get it started again.
There are techniques to prime the pump, of course, and everyone has their own favorites. One way that has been around for decades - but is fairly new to me - is the book-in-a-week self-accountability writing, an offshoot of the book-in-a-month phenomenon.
Once a month one of my writing groups sponsors a book-in-a-week event. That is not a totally accurate name, though we call it that. We don’t expect anyone to write an entire book in a week. We do, however, expect all of us to write. On the first day we each declare how many words we are going to do in the next seven days. This can range from 500 to 10,000 or more. Each evening we email the group our numbers for that day and at the end of the week the coordinator posts a spreadsheet with each individual’s and the group’s totals. There are no prizes for those who make or exceed their goals and no reprisals for those who don’t. It’s completely voluntary and self-reported. There’s no real competition except against yourself.
Simple, right? Yes, it is, but then the simple things are often the most powerful.
Thanks to the restrictions and general malaise of this dratted lingering plague I have had trouble writing. I have been a professional writer of some kind for nearly all my adult life (and, no, I am not going to say how long!) and writing is what I do, no matter if I feel like it or not. Deadlines are deadlines and must be met no matter what else is going on at the time. This plague changed that. I don’t know if it’s simply accidie, or being affected by some malign mental atmosphere permeating the country, or the simple laziness of age. Whatever it is, I have had trouble writing.
I joined the BiaW challenge more out of curiosity than from any hope of help, but it works. I began with a goal of 5,000 words for a week. Normally this would be a laughably low weekly count for me, but one I had not made for several weeks. Just the public declaration that I would do 5,000 in a week stiffened my writing spine and I exceeded my goal. One challenge I didn’t make it, but that particular slice of time contained several family problems. Every other challenge I have more than exceeded my goal - sometimes even doubling it.
So, in my case at least, simple works. Just the act of stating that I am going to write X number of words in Y length of time makes it real. Announcing it publicly makes it real. However it works, for me at least it does work. If you’re having trouble getting the words down, you might try an accountability group.