I seriously suck at holding myself accountable
Below, I go into at least a little detail about why this has become a real problem when it comes to achieving things that matter to me, but in case you’d rather not read through that ordeal, here’s a quick precis of what this post is about: I have something I really, really want to achieve but I can’t do it on my own. I enjoy writing and I’m pretty good at it, but I can’t write for myself. No amount of word tracking or magical apps for word sprints or promises from friends to read it actually helps me get it done. As I explain below, writing has become transactional for me as a result of decades of RP (see below if you dare).
So, after months of agonising over the audacity of even thinking about it, and a good three weeks trying to write this post, I’m actually asking for help.
The waffly-explainy part
The ADHD Dilemma
Though having ADHD can be a superpower at times, it’s can also be kryptonite for someone trying to get particular shit done.
Especially long-term shit, projects that require weeks, months, years to complete. People with ADHD have a blind spot when they look ahead to some nebulous future, and it can be difficult to visualise something beyond that haze. If you’ve ever watched or read The Neverending Story, you’ll know what I mean when I say there’s a Nothing in the way.
I try not to bring it up too often, but this is pretty much why I had to resign from my PhD after battling with undiagnosed ADHD and just not being able to DO it. I was motivated and I really wanted to finish it, but that hardly matters with ADHD.
Sometimes the things we want to do the most are actually the hardest to do.
The Super Power
What’s easy – and by ‘easy’ I mean ‘not difficult to start and finish’ – are the challenging short-term projects. If you have ADHD and develop an interest in something, it can very quickly turn into an obsession you’ll sacrifice sleep, food, and personal hygiene for. A quick example from my own history of obsessive projects is building websites.
Back in the day, when knowing HTML and CSS was wicked cool, I’d waste weekends regularly renovating my website. When PHP turned up, I became a truly malodourous troglodyte building a content management platform for a class project that could be used to host the output of another long-term obsession – roleplay.
That is the ADHD superpower, the hyper-focus to the detriment of such menial and mundane tasks as eating, sleeping, showering, etc. Having to use the loo when you’re focused on a mission? Tragedy!
The obsessive writer
Another situation that would put me in that laser-focused/obsessive state was roleplay.
For anyone who doesn’t know me and my history with roleplay (RP), here’s a quick explainer of what I mean by RP:
Way back in the early days of the web, circa the mid-90s, I haunted chat rooms where weirdos like me enjoyed creating characters and writing stories collaboratively. The weirdos (like me) would throw characters together in scenes, situations, or stories and write them out from the specific perspective of each character.
RP was – is! – both the best and worst thing to happen to me as someone who adores writing. It was the best because I’d get immersed in my characters and obsessed with their stories because there was always someone waiting for me to post so they can respond.
It was glorious when I got the notification that there were words waiting for me to read and respond to. I’ve never actually done drugs (I’m such a square) but I can’t imagine there’s anything better than that feeling.
The worst part
It’s dreadful that those days are long gone. We all had to grow up, get jobs, start families, and all that adult nonsense.
But that’s not actually the worst part. The worst part is that RP taught me to value having someone waiting for my words. It’s nigh impossible, now, for me to write without knowing there’s someone as obsessed with the story and characters as I am, squirming in their seat impatiently waiting for my response.
Essentially, RP taught me that I need someone else to hold me accountable for my writing, and I now can’t seem to get the words out without that essential and entirely absent element. Writing, for me, has become transactional.
ADHD and Accountability
I’ve lamented my inability to write often enough that I’m sure my friends are getting tired of hearing about it. Several ask how they can help or declare they’d read anything I write – which is awesome, btw – but the help I need is difficult to ask for. I need more than that.
People with ADHD may have come across the term ‘body doubling’. For those who think that means cloning ourselves, trust me, we only wish. It’s an awkward term for just having someone else around to hold us accountable simply with their presence. It might involve chatting while menial (but still difficult) challenges are met, like household chores. Or it could be working on something while someone else is reading a book or working on a project of their own.
A lot of people with ADHD use other people in a café to help them achieve written tasks – though I think a lot of people without ADHD also enjoy writing in a café setting for a similar reason. With that in mind, I even made a Discord chat thing where people can sit in a video chat to work on their respective thing in the company of others working on their respective thing – like being in a café.
Alas, living on the far side of the world and with no one available at times I use it, that was a flop.
I don’t have someone in my life to help me with these things (trust me, cats and dogs don’t count – at least for me). I have friends who like to read my writing, but they’re distributed mostly in the northern hemisphere in totally incompatible time zones. Which is why we’ve all fallen out of the RP habit in the first place. Some are embarking on writing careers because they have that enviable capacity to write without help – or they have a spouse who locks them in their room until words happen. Still others have people in their lives they can use as a sounding board for brainstorming ideas.
There’s nothing like that pre-writing stage of brainstorming ideas for getting really, REALLY excited and motivated to write. I think that’s what I miss the most about RP.
The solo project challenge
But a solo project, like writing a novel, can be a little harder to find someone to invite into the creative process for that brainstorming. Especially if the creation process has progressed far enough that you might need to prepare charts and/or a slideshow to explain the project so far.
Suffice to say, I’m well beyond that point and am about as intimidated by the prospect of explaining it as I am by asking for help in the first place.
What I need is to find a way to create that sense of excitement for solo writing. Just having friends interested in reading it, frankly, isn’t enough for me – else I’d be writing tomes a day as I did with RP.
What I need is accountability in absentia, which is pretty much what that Patreon site is all about – at least as I understand it.
But while I like the idea of using Patreon, in short, I’ll have more control over my content, format, and schedule if it’s all managed on my own site. Also, no % taken from subscriptions to cover site fees, which, though fair, would be pretty demoralising for a creator with only one or two patrons. I don’t know if I’d attract more than a couple, maybe a handful at most. Especially just starting out.
Also, I’m not sure I want to use Patreon’s approach with subscription tiers for access to content. I’m more the sort who’d rather share everything with everyone. If I’ve done something I’m especially proud of, I’d rather not limit access to the one person willing to pay more than everyone else.
And what exactly is the content?
Rather than write out a dissertation (with flow charts and diagrams), I want to prepare a space to collect everything related to the project, including:
From world maps to region maps to city maps to location maps, perhaps even scene maps. Maps are fun!
Character guides and portraits
There will be a lot of characters introduced over the course of the series and their profiles will probably grow and expand as I go. I might also try to create some character art, just because I’ve always wanted to try and this might be a great opportunity and reason to see if I can draw/paint more than stick figures.
Like maps, lore is world-building joy. And one can’t really indulge in maps without also indulging in lore. There are many nations and histories and cultures.
I’m always scribbling down ideas, from character names to plot twists or narrative devices. These scribbles will get collected and shared, even if I just scan pages and leave you to decipher my handwriting.
Yup, I’m a plotter, so there are always plots. It may mean spoilers, but if I’m sharing everything then it should be everything. Outlines are always in versions and will probably get updated/altered rather often. Outlines will probably also include things like mind maps.
Well, of course! This is the real content, so of course the raw words will be shared as they become available. Rough drafts are rough, though. (My worst first draft crime? Mixing tenses! Ugh!)
I’m really looking forward to reading my work aloud. If for no other reason than to help identify problem spots with my writing, though I do have dreams (delusions?) about one day narrating my work properly. For the short term, though, I’d just be reading rather than narrating. I mean, I’m still learning about my characters and haven’t yet settled on their written voices, never mind established spoken voice. I suspect reading aloud will help with that, though!
No doubt the audio will feature my neighbours’ dog barking, at least one of my cats yelling about being on a diet, and me swearing at my typos. Definitely not a polished performance, I promise you. But for people who prefer to listen than read, there will be the option.
It could happen, but I’m so terribly self-conscious but I can’t make any promises for this one. My buddy Matt goes so far as to stream his writing sessions on Twitch. I might – MIGHT – stretch myself to recording a session via Discord, though I would likely share a server with any subscribers interested in joining me (or spying on me) while I write.
I don’t think Twitch is for me – yet. (I’m just not as sexy as Matt and his beard.)
Perhaps I can just add video to the audio of reading so you can watch me as well as listen to me read my work?
This would be where I write about how I’m going with the project, things that have inspired me or distracted me, and probably ask for feedback about things like character or place names. This would definitely be where the most interaction would take place – a virtual sounding board. I’d also try to record audio versions of these posts – I mean to go back through my regular blog and do the same.
I don’t know that it’d be a real and proper wiki, but I’ll do my best to cross-link and connect all related pages so information is easy to find. Looking at a character profile for Yook and want to know more about the Yu’Que?
But then again, maybe there will be a proper wiki. At this point, I’m still just testing the waters of interest before I get carried away building the site. (Because I will definitely get carried away building the site.)
I dunno, maybe I’ll write poetry or something?
But what is ‘the project’?
The current working title is The Glimmering. I’ve been poking at the idea for the better part of this century so far, though the seeds were probably planted late in the last millennium. It’s matured through a few iterations and probably wouldn’t be recognisable now to the me of 1998.
The current iteration is a (or will be) series of novels chronicling the stories of several characters spanning a few hundred years in a world dealing with the crisis of magic, which isn’t native or natural to the environment. There are dragons (of a sort), zombies (of a sort), demon possessions (sort of), pirates, political intrigues, romances, wars… you know, everything you’d expect from a series of fantasy novels, except all grimdark and shit.
I don’t write young adult fiction.
There’s a lot of work to do and a vast amount of content to pull together to help me build the world, the characters, and the overall story from a multitude of plotlines.
All of which would be shared with you – if you subscribe.
Would you pay for this?
The crux of the matter; is this sort of content worth paying a subscription-type fee similar to that of Patreon?
The idea is essentially the same as that platform – support/encourage/help a writer (me) while they (I) work and get access to that work as they (I) go.
I know for certain that it would help me produce content of all sorts knowing there are people willing to pay for access because they’re genuinely interested in what I create. It would feel more like something I’m doing for them than for myself, which I’ve already established above doesn’t work for me – at all.
I feel really uncomfortable proposing this as an idea. I definitely don’t feel in the least deserving of money for the project in its current state, but I have a feeling a lot of creators feel that way when they first ask for this kind of help to get their projects underway. Isn’t that how Patreon started?
This brings me to the part I’ve been waffling on so long to avoid…
What’s it worth?
What would you (yes, you) be prepared to pay for access to it if you’re interested?
Would you prefer to pay weekly or monthly?
Would $10US a month be too high? Too low?
Given this is actually less about making money than creating personal accountability, I’d rather ask for a little and get lots of people interested than asking for a lot and only interest two people.
Frankly, I’d be happy just to cover my modest monthly web host fees.
And, of course, there’s the issue of how to manage these payments.
I’ll say up front that I’m not at all comfortable with the idea of being responsible for anyone’s bank details. I’d never forgive myself if that sort of information was hacked! I do have some confidence in PayPal, however. If I were to go ahead with this project, I’d use that.
I haven’t yet investigated how that might be achieved, but my goal would be to provide the most secure payments possible. PayPal has a whole lot of user protections to ensure subscriber security.
So, what am I asking for right now?
If this idea interests you and you’d like to be a patron of my creation, I’d like to know how much you think is a fair subscription fee, and whether you think weekly or monthly would work best. Perhaps I can offer both.
You can leave a comment below or get in touch with me via whatever platform we share to let me know your thoughts.
I’m going to allocate a section of my website to share all the content associated with my novel series, The Glimmering. If you’d be interested in subscribing to this content, get in touch with me to let me know how much and how often you think is a fair subscription!