Writing Success 101: Accountability Breeds Responsibility (By Charles R. Rogers, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant)


Writing Success 101: Accountability Breeds Responsibility

By Charles R. Rogers, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant


Lucy Larcom, an American poet from the 1800s, once said, “If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” In the writing world, it is very easy to reach a similar cold state. Our cold world often stems from a number of roadblocks including writer’s block, not enough time, a heavy teaching or research load – just to name a few. In today’s culture, most academicians are used to finding detours to these road blocks all alone instead of taking advantage accountability.


From an early age, we (writers) are very timid when it comes to sharing our writing because we automatically expect to receive a lot of red ink that is NEGATIVE. However, for the past few years, I have become a HUGE fan of writing accountability as I have witnessed first-hand how it breeds incredible results. In case you are unfamiliar with this writing technique, it can be done in a number of ways. One way I use it involves checking in once a week (at the top of the work week preferably) with colleagues. During these check-ins, we not only inform each other of our research (which includes writing), teaching, and service goals for the upcoming week, but we also provide each other with POSITIVE encouragement. For instance, if one of my accountability partners made a goal last week to incorporate feedback into a manuscript returned as a Revise and Resubmit, I may ask how well it went last week or state how I hope the comments assisted with making my accountability partner’s piece stronger. Conversely, I too look forward to sharing my progress from the previous week because I do not want to let my colleagues down by not having any updates to share, and know they are going to provide encouragement as my accountability partners whether I met all of my goals are not. Responding to your accountability partner(s) in a positive manner not only indirectly boosts a writer’s confidence, but builds community.


Another way I utilize writing accountability is by organizing weekly or bi-weekly writing sessions. A few times throughout the week, I meet with colleagues at their homes, coffee shops, or other places with free Wi-Fi J to simply write. Typically, we follow an ‘hour on, five minutes off’ format where we write uninterrupted for one hour followed immediately by a 5-10 minute break. The break can be used to stretch, check out the latest news on Facebook/Twitter, use the restroom, vent about life as PhD students, or even check email. This break also allows you to overcome a problem often faced by many writers: binge writing. The key to the ‘power hour” is to just focus solely on writing during that particular hour. To avoid distraction and interruption, I often turn my phone over (with sounds off) so I cannot see the text messages or phone calls I receive, and log out of all of my email accounts. Essentially, my accountability partner and I are treating each hour as if it is an appointment with someone. When you have an appointment with someone, do you give them your undivided attention or “multi-task”? If your answer is the latter, that is another discussion I would be happy to discuss off-lineJ. Nonetheless, it is always amazing to see how well each hour went.


POWER hours may also be used to share feedback with others. My only recommendation about feedback sessions is to attempt to plan its format ahead of time. For instance, if two colleagues are scheduled to write for three and a half hours this week, the day could be broken down as follows:


  1. Write one hour,
  2. Take a 5 minute break
  3. Write one hour
  4. Take a 5 minute break, and
  5. Allow each person to have 25 minutes to obtain feedback

For information on giving feedback or other writing techniques, I encourage you to read the work of Peter Elbow or Patricia Goodson.

Are you almost convinced that accountability breeds the responsibility needed to assure your success as a writer? Then step out of your cold comfort zone and kindle another writer’s fire.