October 2012 • Vol. 23, No. 10 • Download pdf version
Goal Buddies: Partners on the Road
BY ELAINE ISAAK
A few years ago, I was, er, between publishers. And between agents. It seemed at the time that my tiny career was already over, and this resulted in what might politely be called a slump. I would think about how happy I used to be while writing, but it didn’t motivate me to actually write anything. I shuffled some short stories around, attended conferences and networked like a drowning person, but in my heart I knew the terrible truth: I was no longer a writer. The idea was frightening and paralyzing, and I knew, too, that it had to change. But how?
In chatting with a friend in my local RWA chapter, I found she was in a similar state. Jackie had been the president of the chapter for a while—a real go-getter who Made Things Happen, but mostly for others. Now that her term was done, she wanted to get back to writing and couldn’t figure out how. Perhaps if the two of us got together, we could help each other through. Since we’d been dry for so long, we agreed that the goal should be small and manageable. Say 100 words a day. We could write 100 words in our sleep, right? So the 100-Word Challenge began.
Every evening we would email each other: did you do your hundred? At first, it was a little rocky. All the excuses were still there. The act of checking in with each other spurred a variety of emotions: guilt if we hadn’t done our words, envy if the other writer had, joy if we had exceeded the goal, excitement for each other as our works in progress began to take shape. Sometimes, the fact that I had to email Jackie made me sit down at the computer and write. And sometimes, I looked up from my keyboard 1,000 words later and realized I had been so excited to write that I forgot to email her at all! In about five weeks of the 100-Word Challenge, I had jumpstarted my work in progress and became self-motivating again, thanks to my Goal Buddy.
Writer and speaker Luc Reid of The Writing Engine, a free motivational book for writers: http://www.lucreid.com/downloads/TheWritingEngine.pdf, calls this a feedback loop. Basically, a feedback loop is any mechanism by which you can keep track of progress toward a goal, and get information about how to improve that progress. Any feedback loop works better when you are required to have accountability. For
President’s Voice: Jazzed
goal buddies, that means someone waiting to hear how it’s going. It’s a great motivational tactic: you establish the habit of checking in with another writer, each helping the other to work toward their writing goals.
Luc’s blog contains loads of information about motivation, including an article devoted to the feedback loop (http://www.lucreid.com/?p=560).
Jackie and I had stumbled upon a system that worked for us. Freelancers in nonfiction have been talking about goal buddies Continued on page 4