This blog entry is courtesy of OWNer Lisa Gallagher!
When I was nine years old, I fell in love with books. I knew, even then, that it wouldn’t be enough to be just a reader. I knew that I had to write – actually, I think I knew that I already was a writer, long before I had written my first word.
By the time I was in my mid-teens I was a prolific young poet. By sixteen, when I started an all-girls punk band in the suburbs of Detroit, I was transforming many of my poems into song lyrics. By twenty-two I was working toward my first novel.
Throughout my twenties and thirties, story ideas would come to me and I’d begin the process, with each new idea, of sitting down and doing my best at turning those ideas into novels. I was never successful, however. I’d surrender each story for the next great idea that came along. I held onto the old drafts but I never found a way to return to them.
Between the crate of old notebooks filled with half-written stories and the personal challenges of trying to set and complete goals, I began to think of myself as lazy. As a procrastinator. As unmotivated. By the age of thirty-nine I was comfortable with thinking of myself as someone who has great ideas but rarely finishes them.
But in the fall of 2007 I discovered a website designed to help writers.NaNoWriMo.org is an offshoot of the “National Novel Writing Month” which takes place each November. The goal at NaNo is to help authors reach the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in one month’s time, or the equivalent of a strong first draft. At the time I had about 5,000 words of a novel that I had been working on for four years. I searched through the NaNo website and began to get a feel for what it would require to take my 5,000 words and turn them into 50,000 words. I was rather shocked to see that it would simply require me to write 1,600 words each day. “That’s it?” I thought. “For just thirty days? I can at least do that!”
I was inspired enough to be motivated and at the same time, to understand that I would have to adjust my social life to have the time available to do that work. So, I simply reached out to my closest friends and I told them, “I won’t be available at all during the month of November, other than Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll be busy, working on a novel.” So, with the approval of my circle of friends and a few words of support and encouragement, I sat down on November 1st of 2007 and began the process of writing daily.
By November 30th, I had reached 51,000 words - above and beyond the goal that I had set. A year later I had reached 66,000 words and by the following June I was at nearly 90,000 words. I continued working on the manuscript and in October of 2010, I published that novel.
But what I gained was more than just the credentials of having a book published. I have now created an entire structure around my writing calendar that allows me to write a book every two years, even with a busy social life and a full-time job. And, more importantly, I finally learned the key to motivation: accountability. It starts with oneself but it does not end there. Whether the goals you are setting are personal, professional, spiritual or creative – it is important to include others. Share your ideas. Ask for assistance or help. Listen when others share their goals with you. It took a simple website for me to ultimately learn that I was not lacking in motivation. I was lacking in support but without asking for help and sharing my vision, no one knew how much I needed it. Including myself.
The definition of accountability is essentially “the buck stops here”. Sometimes that accountability extends not just to our political and civic leaders or our employers. Accountability to yourself is also pretty important. Especially when it comes to our biggest dreams. We owe it to ourselves to not only pursue those dreams, but to extend those dreams to others.
Personally, I’m glad that at the age of 39 I was able to discard the idea that I was lazy. It took that experience to learn that, in fact, I was not lazy. I just had not yet learned that finding accountability to myself required me to share my goals with others. It’s changed my life, not just my writing.
Check out Lisa's page to purchase her published works, or get in touch with her to inquire about freelance writing services!