Finding Direction This Summer

I love lazy, unstructured summers. For a week or two…. After that I need some purpose.

Even as a youngster, I kept a calendar in the summer marking vacation and camp, and how I was doing in the library summer reading program.

SAMSUNGI’m the same as an adult, although now I try to ensure that I do have some lazy, unstructured weeks to my summer. I have my vacation days allotted and mainly they will be spent lounging poolside.

But there will be days with purpose, including —

Reading. I’ll read my mysteries and fiction. I also will read books on self-management, communications and leadership. During the summer, I spend more time outdoors, often in a lounge chair with a book in hand.

Writing. I’ll work on my book and my blog. My accountability partner will keep me from slacking too much. I may even do some writing poolside (although not too close).

Walking. I always enjoy walking in the cool of the morning or evening. To keep me motivated to do that this summer, I set an ambitious goal. I’m calling it my One Million Steps to Success Plan. One of my colleagues has agreed to join me on this plan. We must walk a minimum of 10,000 steps each day (and sometimes more) from Memorial Day through Labor Day. When we succeed, we will have walked one million steps!

I say this is highly ambitious because I’ve yet to walk 70,000 steps in a week. So why will I succeed with this?

  1. I have someone to do it with.
  2. It’s fun and just quirky enough to motivate me.
  3. We broke the summer down into bit-sized chunks. Between now and Flag Day, for example, we must walk 155,000 steps. Today, I did 10,000.
  4. I have fewer commitments in the summer and, therefore, fewer distractions to keep me from walking.

What direction will your summer take?

PS Feel free to send encouraging words my way and cheer me on.


Do You Need an Accountability Partner?

The other Friday I spent the entire day writing, thanks to my accountability partner.

For the past year, I’ve met every other Friday at 8 a.m. with Liz, my accountability partner. I’d been lamenting that I needed to find a way to jump start my one book, but that I was not making the time.


My writing space at the Library of Virginia. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

The next thing I knew, I had an invite from her to spend the day writing.

We’d start at 8:30 a.m. at the Library of Virginia. We lost ourselves in the stacks and wrote all morning. We then took a break and drove to The Jefferson Hotel, where we had lunch and then spent the afternoon on the mezzanine writing. By day’s end, I had 6,000 words on paper. That weekend, I outlined my additional writing days.

I could not have done it without my accountability partner.

What is an accountability partner? You could think of her as my inner voice, my critic, my cheerleader, my coach or any other number of terms. I’m also her accountability partner.

We met while taking a coaching class and discovered similar interests. We also recognized that individually we weren’t always meeting our personal goals. We decided to help each other hold ourselves accountable.

Our meetings are simple. We discuss what we would like to achieve and what we could do in the next two weeks to move ourselves closer to our goals. The next time we meet, we report on our progress. Sometimes we critique each other’s work. Sometimes we provide resources.

Mostly we provide inspiration and encouragement.

If I don’t complete my assignments, there is nothing that Liz can do. However, I respect and value Liz’s time, which means that there are some Thursday evenings when I am scrambling to finish my homework. I almost always do. So does Liz.

We’ve been meeting now for about a year. I decided to make a list of my accountability successes. Here’s what I’ve achieved:

  • I’ve coached my first client
  • I joined a coaching federation
  • I’ve enhanced my blog
  • I created a website
  • I outlined one book
  • I rejoined my mystery writers group

I’ve had this success thanks, in part, to Liz, who is someone I trust to give me straightforward feedback. Because we have similar goals, she is interested in what I am doing and wants to see me succeed. I want the same for her.

She suggested the all-day writing day, in part I’m sure, because I had said several times, “If only I had a day to write.” For whatever reason, I wasn’t giving myself permission to take such a day. However, when Liz suggested it, I jumped at the opportunity.

Turns out that having an accountability partner helps you get things done. If you don’t have a person you can turn to, you can probably find an app to help you.

When I finish this book, you can be sure my accountability partner will be featured in the acknowledgments.

Editor’s Note: If you had an accountability partner, what would you have them help you with? Please post your answers in the comment section.

Advice on How to Write a Novel

The other week I received an intriguing email from my accountability partner. She asked if I could take a particular day off from work.

I checked my calendar and realized I could.

Liz and I would spend the entire day writing. I could hardly wait!

I have three books in my head. One is halfway down on paper (well, the computer). One is in outline form. One is still swirling. I need writing time.

Unfortunately, I have not been following my friend Adriana Trigiani’s advice. And I should since she is a best-selling novelist. She has told me — and countless others — that the secret to writing a novel is to just do it.

It’s the same advice I heard from several authors involved with Sisters in Crime, Central Virginia Chapter.

Meriah L. Crawford, a writer, teacher and private investigator, said, “You have to make time for writing. If you go to grad school, it makes you a better writer.”

You can write anywhere. Teresa Inge writes in her car at lunch.

You can hold a writing marathon by writing all day, which is my plan.

Another option is to write in small bites, which I’ve tried, but I only get so far. Others have had more success with this approach.

Kristin Kisska, who has young children, writes during nap times. Her debut novel is a contemporary suspense adventure set at her alma mater, the University of Virginia.

Adele Gardner suggests writing for 15 minutes when you wake up.

And then there is Vivian Lawry, who did not start writing until after retirement.

Mary Burton enjoys hunting down serial killers, which she does in her New York Times and USA Today bestselling novels of suspense and romance. She has 27 books to her credit and suggests having daily page goals to get the book finished.

Her advice is similar to that of Walter Moseley, who writes, “In order to be a writer you have to set up a daily routine. Put aside an amount of time to sit with your computer or notebook.” The advice is included in his book, “This Year You Write Your Novel,” which is one of more than 25 books he has written, including the Easy Rawlins and Fearless Jones mysteries.

So now that I’ve procrastinated by reading his book, it’s time to start writing. And I’m going to start with a marathon day!