When I started writing seriously–seriously is defined as not just writing whatever the hell I wanted, but taking classes to get to a publishable quality—I took a class with the infamous Margie Lawson. First I bought and went through all her lecture notes. Then I realized that it would be incredibly valuable to get her feedback as an instructor. I’d seen her make points on other writers’ work and I wanted to know exactly what I was doing wrong at the micro level.
So in 2011 or 20 (I can’t remember) I took her class online and instantly paired with Pam as my class partner (in the class you have to pair up to go over assignments with each other first before posting them to the main class).
Pam and I hit it off. We were instant friends. She’s an easy person to get along with. But the amazing things didn’t stop there. We continued to communicate and took more classes together. Fast-forward about a year and we decided we needed to become goal partners. We didn’t know what that would look like, we had about a million false starts. First trying to update monthly, then weekly. (It should be noted that I always forgot to update). We tried phone calls (I always forgot to call or have my phone…and then there was this problem about Pam calling from the future. So a 9am scheduled call was 6am here). Until—now this sounds insane—we started email updating daily. Every day.
Now it’s been a few years. We’ve got the kinks worked out. I’ve thought of the main reasons you should get a goal partner.
1. It’s fun
Pam and I have a blast with our nightly emails. We have the occasional flat, I’m-in-a-hurry stuff, but sometimes we pretend we’re soldiers in battle, marathoners, mountain climbers. We’ve sort of taken the visualization aspect of reaching goals to the extreme. But hey, it works. When I’ve had a pretty crappy day, it’s a joy to open my email and see a creative adventure taking place. And then I get to come up with one for Pam. Each night the emails take me about five or less minutes to send. Sometimes it’s borderline silly. Shhh, okay, maybe always silly.
2. Get more done
It’s not rocket science. You set a goal and you have someone you hold yourself accountable to, eventually you’ll get that sucker done. So we have yearly goals for ourselves. They’re based on our own pace and lifestyle. Then we have monthly goals (breaking those big goals down into smaller chunks), then weekly goals. The weekly goals are more simple like: I’m doing 1k a day this week. Anyway, before Pam I’d write when I felt like it, set goals that didn’t get finished. When I have someone waiting for my progress report at the end of the day, I’m much more likely to accomplish what I said I’d do.
3. Set more realistic goals
Pam and I took a class on Self-Defeating Behaviors with Margie Lawson. It’s a class that teaches you about behaviors that keep you from accomplishing what you want. Some people set goals too high and then get depressed when they don’t meet them (me), some people write lists and stress over how much is on there and are paralyzed from ever starting, or some people let “I’m never going to sell anything anyway” attitude take over and they don’t bother to work harder or update their skills. In any case, Pam and I know each other’s pitfalls and initiate the karate chop, stop that motion when one of us is about to fall into a spiral. It’s a good reminder to reset and breathe. I have waaaayyy less anxiety related to writing because my fears and negative talk get stopped at the gate. I do the same for Pam. We get in the mindset before walking across the coals. Can’t do it in a panic, because that’s when you get burned.
Writing is a lonely profession. I have a lot of writing friends, but not very many who I talk to my projects about. Creative stuff needs to be talked about to keep it exciting.
5. Checks and Balances
I have an easy record to go back and see what all I’ve done. I wouldn’t have completed a goal list (it would have stayed in my head), I wouldn’t state my word goals (they’d remain loose so I could find a way out of them if other things came up). When I do these things I have data to compare to. I promised to do ___ I accomplished ___. Or I wrote ___ words this month. I completed ____ short stories, novels, books read, pages edited. We state craft books we’re going to read to keep the info fresh. It’s not all about the word goals, but the continued education of writing.
Bottom line is that you’re going to want a writing partner. Or if you work in a creative field a project partner, or a fitness partner, or a something. Working in pairs gets so much done. I used to HATE group work in college because it felt like someone was always doing a little more and someone was slacking off. The beauty of this is that each person sets their own pace and the other person is there to listen, hand out praise, or offer a pep talk. Obviously the chemistry needs to work just right, and the optimal conditions need to be in place.
But if you find it, it’s a really awesome thing.