The Joy and Beauty of Accountability

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The software that interprets statistics creates beautiful (though unintentionally hilarious) charts.

It’s been a little over two years since I first signed up for, a site based around the idea of morning writing exercises. One of the classic pieces of advice that professional writers give, is to start every morning by writing three pages, stream-of-consciousness style. This helps unclutter the mind and gets the writing brain into high gear. For people poor at planning it helps set an agenda for the day. For people prone to anxiety or rumination, it sets worries on paper and out of the mind. This exercise has many different uses. One page fits on average 250 words, hence the URL as given.

As a tool it’s been invaluable to me. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and yet I have always struggled to bring my craft to a level where I can treat it as a profession. The craft, for me, requires a great deal of organization, discipline and a high work ethic. Wanting something very badly has never been enough. The site uses “gamification” to make the sense of achievement more overt, colorful and rewarding, awarding cute animal-themed badges to users who reach certain milestones. An optional monthly challenge exists, where you as a user can set your own rewards and penalties. One of the penalties that I have set myself is to reread a manuscript I started and never finished, back in 2006.

Beyond the quick and shallow rush of achievement at unlocking a new badge, I find that the main use of the site for me is as a tool for accountability. When I am writing, my recent activity is lined up at the top of the page, a series of green exes and blanks illustrating my most recent writing streak. The software behind the scenes does all the work of keeping track for me, so I don’t need to struggle with my memory to figure out how many days I wrote this week. That in itself is probably worth enough for me to justify the monthly fee.

I’m a disorganized writer and I need all the help I can muster for myself. The AO3 gives me tools to publish and reach new readers, and also tells me that I posted 175 thousand words since I opened my account. The Twine game host posts each new game I submit to its Twitter account, and also keeps track of how many hits each game has received. In the 757 days since I joined I have written more than half a million words on that site alone. Most of these are disorganized and disinteresting, but some of them are first drafts of stories, game snippets, or posts on this blog.

Being a writer is hard work. You have to rally all of the resources at your disposal, from your own perseverance onward, if you want to succeed. This particular resource has been invaluable to me.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.

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