Accountable: Creating a Culture To Achieve Your Goals
Author: Suzanne Lipshaw
January 13, 2020
Accountable means being responsible and answerable for an action. When it comes time to set goals and expectations, accountable is the word one looks for when it comes time for results; meaning, who is accountable for the results?
Writing While Being Accountable
When it comes to writing, being accountable is just as important as being prepared for your goals. Successful authors have a unique voice and writing style. Some write fiction, while others prefer nonfiction. Some opt to get their message across through short stories or picture books, while others enjoy delving in for the long haul of a novel. Some find writing poetry more pleasing than prose, and still, others chose to showcase their artistic talents by writing and illustrating. Successful authors also approach their writing craft in a myriad of ways. Some live by the adage that daily writing is a must, while others write periodically. Some are “plotters”—authors who plan their novels out thoroughly before writing; while others are “pantsers”—authors who fly by the seat of their pants and let the story create itself as they write. However, within these different techniques, there is one element that shines through as a common thread of all successful authors—each incorporate elements of the Leader in Me.
As a novice author, I decided to take a closer look at my writing process and see what habits and Leader in Me concepts I am using and which ones I need to concentrate on further to help me become more efficient and effective in my writing journey. Let’s see where I do well and where I need some work.
Habit 1: Be Proactive® – You’re in Charge and Accountable!
The majority of the time, being an author is a solitary job. Since there is no one looking over my shoulder to see if I am getting my work done, it is my responsibility to set myself up for success.
- I chose my actions, attitudes, and moods: In my home, I designed a beautiful space where I stow away to write. When I walk in, I am greeted by a huge writing desk where I can spread out and keep all the items I need for my craft within reach. Hanging on the walls are three metal birds prompting me to let the words fly, wood cut out of the word “imagine” encouraging creativity, and a photograph of the Beatles reminding me that it’s okay to break the writing rules once in a while. Additionally, the room is decorated in terra cotta and earth tones creating an ambiance that keeps me calm, centered, and inspired.
- I am a responsible person: Once I begin to write I get lost in the words and the hours tick away. But getting started is another story. I do my best writing when no one is home; and therefore, no one is looking. So, who’s going to know if I spend some time playing “Words with Friends” before I open up my laptop?
Not my best choice! That’s why it is important to hold myself accountable.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind® – Have a Plan and Make Yourself Accountable!
Authors are usually working on several projects at a time. I am currently working on various stages of four books. I have found that most authors find it imperative to have a plan that works for them. This is another way of ensuring that you are holding yourself accountable. For me, this means:
- I plan ahead: I am the definition of a plotter. I consistently start the writing process with some form of an outline and as a nonfiction writer, spend much of my time delving into research before I even begin to write.
- I set goals: I have a writer’s notebook where I keep track of my short- and long-term goals. My short-term goals span a week. This week’s tasks are to finish this blog post and to have the next revision of my manuscript “The Expedition of the CubeSat Rax” ready for my critique group meeting on Saturday. My long-term goals encompass a six-month span. My goals for the second half of 2019 are to market my debut nonfiction picture book “I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks”, send my manuscript “Mighty Mahi: A Sea Turtle’s Journey Home” to publishers, research and draft my manuscript “Weather or Not”, and make final revisions to the CubeSat manuscript.
Check—two for two for habit two!!
Habit 3: Put First things First® – Holding Yourself Accountable.
I think it is safe to say that authors have chosen their paths because of their passion for writing. But of course, authors enjoy many other activities too and it is essential to find a way to make sure that playtime compliments but doesn’t interfere with work time.
- I make a schedule to hold myself accountable: To help me achieve my weekly goals, I use a seven-day calendar that has a black and white design across the top that is meant to be colored in. This play activity gives me something to look forward to when the task of creating the calendar is upon me. I break down all my activities—work and play—into a daily schedule to keep me organized and on task.
- I spend my time on things that are most important: As I stated above, my schedule gives me a structure for the week and generally keeps me focused; however, I have this compulsive need to check things off my list. So, instead of tackling the urgent and important tasks (quadrant 1 – Stephen Covey’s 4 quadrants for productivity) first, I gravitate towards those that may be important but don’t need my immediate attention (quadrant 3 and 4 – Stephen Covey’s 4 quadrants for productivity). It gives me a sense of satisfaction to get these little things accomplished, but when I push back those that are most important, I struggle to make my deadlines.
This one is definitely a work in progress!
Habit 4: Think Win-Win® – Everyone Can Win.
When working with editors and publishers, disagreements can arise about various aspects of an author’s manuscript. Conflict is never easy but keeping in mind a win-win strategy is a productive way to guide both sides towards a conclusion that is satisfactory to all.
- When conflicts arise, I look for options that work for both sides: While reviewing the manuscript of “I Campaigned for Ice Cream”, my editor and I had several discussions about how to present the civic vocabulary that was used throughout the book. With a little give and take, we settled on a combination of creatively defining the words within the context of the story and adding a glossary to the end of the book which is not typical for a narrative nonfiction book. To my surprise, the glossary became one aspect of my book highlighted by reviewers.
- I balance courage for what I want with consideration for what others want: Speaking out to my editor took some courage. After 43 rejection letters, I certainly didn’t want to upset the lady who chose to publish my book. However, I knew that we both wanted the best end product, so I tactfully delved into the discussion keeping both our point of views in mind.
Check! Gotta love those win-wins!
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood® – Listen Before you Talk.
Successful authors work with other writers who critique their work and need to stay open-minded to suggestions and criticisms. This is another great way of keeping yourself accountable to your goals.
- I listen to other peoples’ ideas and feelings and I try to see things from their viewpoints: I have a critique group that meets monthly. We do our best to listen to what everyone has to say about our manuscripts before we explain or defend. It is critical for a writer to understand how a reader will look at their book. Think about it; I won’t be around when my book is being read and if there are parts that most of my critique partners feel need clarification, I need to take that to heart and make some revisions.
- I listen to others without interrupting: I have learned that keeping open ears and an open mind during these critiques are beneficial, and I have that part down pat. But I have a bad habit of interrupting. Usually I think the person is done, but I haven’t’ stopped to listen long enough to make sure and I find myself talking over others.
Not good! Another item for my “must work on this” list!
Habit 6: Synergize® – Together is Better.
Critique partners, editors, publishers, and illustrators all work together to create the books we love to read.
- I seek out other people’s ideas to solve problems because I know that by teaming with others, we can create better solutions than anyone of us alone: I hope from several of my previous examples you can see that working with others creates a higher quality end-product than working solo.
- I value other peoples’ strengths and learn from them: As a picture book author, I am limited to the number of words I can use and am tasked with making every word count. Additionally, I have to put my faith in the creativity, vision, and talent of my illustrator and leave out anything that can be shown through pictures. When I saw the illustrations in “I Campaigned for Ice Cream” I truly understood the brilliance behind the author/illustrator partnership.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw® – Balance Feels Best.
I can’t speak for other authors on this one, but I whole-heartedly believe Habit 7 is the most important. In fact, I keep an antique balance scale on my writing desk to remind me that life is composed of many facets and by taking advantage of them all I will be healthier inside and out. Putting Habit 7 at the forefront provides me with the wherewithal to concentrate on the other 7 habits leading me to be a more effective and efficient writer.
- I take care of my body by eating right, exercising, and getting sleep:
Sleep – yes! Eating right and exercising – sometimes…
- I learn in lots of ways and lots of places: I am a teacher as well as an author, providing me with the privilege of being around children who help me grow mentally and emotionally every day. Additionally, I consistently work on developing my teaching and writing crafts through webinars, workshops, conferences and believe it or not—Twitter!
- I spend time with family and friends: There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with my boys – my husband Marc, my grown sons Josh and Jeremy, and my furry friend Ziggy! Additionally, I always make time in my schedule for family and friends.
This one is too precious to not be a check!
- I take time to find meaningful ways to help people: As a teacher, this is an easy one! As an author, I hope the message in my books helps inspire and encourages my readers.
- I balance all parts of myself (body, brain, heart and soul): When I create my weekly schedules I have checkboxes at the bottom to keep me accountable for all parts of Habit 7!
Check! Balance is BEST!!
Habit 8: Find your Voice® – and Inspire Others to Find Theirs.
When authors sit down to write a book they do so because they have a story to tell; however, the story is just the vehicle for the author’s message. Successful authors dig deep to discover the vital idea (what is the book really about?) behind their books. Authors speak through the written word and these vital ideas are why we write! Authors strive to reach the hearts and souls of their readers and hope to inspire each reader to find their voice and become a valuable contributing member of their community!
Check! Double Check! and Triple Check!
So, how did I do? Overall, I’m pleased with my process, but this exercise has increased my awareness of a few areas I need to concentrate on. I hope you are encouraged to do an accountability self-check for the elements of your life you deem most important.