Julie and I actually got the idea to write this post because we’ve been sharing a “Progress Report” spreadsheet between us for about 7 months now. It’s set up in a Google Spreadsheet, with a new sheet for each month, and every day, we update each other on what we have (and haven’t!) achieved writing-wise. It seems like a little thing, but knowing that you’re going to check in with someone at the end of each day is pretty motivating. I guess it’s similar to those tips about finding an exercise buddy, to keep you accountable.
Julie: The Progress Report has helped me a lot! I recognize that I’m the kind of person who produces better work when I know there’s a measure of accountability involved. (For instance, I was always good with handing in papers when I was in school.) Not to say that our shared Progress Report is like being in school, (I don’t feel like Kat is going to give me an F if I don’t get my work done!) but it does help keep me focused. By sharing my progress at the end of each day, I’m able to catch myself if I see a few days where I’m not getting anywhere. Sometimes I know I’ve just been “taking it easy,” or overwhelmed by other things, but other times I don’t realize that my productivity has declined until I’m typing the third, “didn’t get much done today,” in a row. When I see things moving in the wrong direction, I can step back and figure out what might be wrong, and correct it.
Kat: I give Julie As every day 😉
Julie: Haha, thank you Kat! Actually, there is a bit of a grading component to the Progress Report, but we don’t grade each other. On the days we feel particularly good about our accomplishments, we give ourselves a check mark.
Kat: Which is really motivating, too. Positive reinforcement, and all 🙂 I know I’m not the only one who can actually be too hard on myself. After two or three unproductive days, it’s all too easy for me to slip into “Oh, god, I’ve done NOTHING this whole week!” mode…which, of course, only kills my productivity even more. When I have a record of my progress, it’s easier for me to tell myself, “Ok, so you had a bad day or two or three, but hey, before that you were doing great! Let’s get back to that.” Plus, when Julie also sees my progress, she can be that reasonable voice that tells me, “You’re doing fine.”
Julie: And she’s doing fine all the time. 😉 But that’s a great point. By sharing our updates every day, we’re able to add in notes of encouragement to each other. It feels a lot less like I’m working all alone!
Kat: This spreadsheet method has worked really well for me, but there are other ways of using a community to keep you accountable. For example, in the past I’ve sometimes had critique partners send me chapters as they revise them. I think there’s something satisfying and “done!” feeling about doing something concrete to mark the completion of each chapter. At the end of the day, it’s the same idea of keeping yourself on track because someone is going to be watching over your progress.
Julie: Kat, I love that idea! I’ve never had that type of relationship with a critique partner, but I have turned over my chapters to a non-writer friend as I worked. It gave me the same sense of completion you were talking about, (even though I wasn’t expecting feedback on the writing.) Most writers probably have a few people in their lives who would be more than happy to assume this role–if not another writer who is already a critique partner, then a family member or close friend. I know a few members of the Sweet 16s debut group have mentioned that they belong to writers’ groups, which meet regularly to read each other’s work and lend support.
Again, we’d love to hear from you guys. Does this sound like something you could see yourself doing with a critique partner/friend? Or are you already using some other method that works well for you? Let us know!