You want to write more. You want to finish and submit more of your writing.
You may think that the only way to do that is to do one or more of the following:
- set concrete (product-oriented) goals
- give yourself deadlines for achieving those goals
- make yourself accountable to someone else for those goals and/or deadlines
All of those things might work. And all of them make me feel really uncomfortable. I’m going to try to tease out why that is. I published some thoughts on the blog recently: You don’t need accountability. You might want to read that, too.
In writing this, I am not attached to the idea that these are bad strategies. I know that they are bad for some people. I also suspect that the fact that they are effective (for some people) does not necessarily make them the best strategies.
My goal in writing this is to help you think through what works best for you.
Are you lazy?
Implicit in these strategies is an assumption that without external pressure you wouldn’t do anything. Or, at the very least, that you wouldn’t do these particular things.
As I’ve written before, no one is lazy. If your gremlin is not convinced, set a timer for 2 minutes and write continuously for that time. Don’t stop to think too much. Looking back over the past week:
- What projects did you work on? (work, life, anything, everything)
- What commitments did you keep? (to others, to yourself)
- What out of the ordinary or unexpected things did you deal with?
Stop writing when the timer goes off.
Is that the list of a lazy person? Remember that this is not everything. It is what you remembered, what you thought worthy of writing down, and what you could write in 2 minutes.
Do you have poor judgement?
Even if you don’t assume laziness, these strategies assume that you wouldn’t do the right things. There is an inherent assumption that you can’t trust your own judgement. Without an external force guiding your actions you would not choose wisely.
This may be true. More likely you doubt your judgement. There is a lot about how school works (and you’ve been in school for a very long time and succeeded at it) that encourages meeting externally imposed standards over developing your own judgement. (see also Why being a Straight-A student isn’t necessarily a good thing)
Is the way you are using goals, deadlines, and accountability helping you develop better judgement? Or, are you reinforcing your lack of trust in yourself?
In particular, how often does a personal goal or a personal deadline provide an opportunity for self-flagellation? How often does a personal goal or a personal deadline offer an opportunity for self-congratulation? How do those 2 numbers compare?
How would you work if you trusted that you weren’t lazy and had good judgement?
How would you set personal goals and deadlines build your self-confidence?
What else could you do instead of setting goals and deadlines?
How would you organize your time to move projects to completion?
What could you do to build your trust in your judgement, in your processes, and in your ability?
Do you need external accountability? Or do you need support? What could that support look like?
The Academic Writing Studio includes resources that will help you figure out how to establish a writing practice that works for you, and resources to help you maintain that practice by scheduling time for your priorities, set achievable goals (which may focus on the process rather than the product), and get the support you need.