top of page

How To Build Writing Accountability While Avoiding Perfectionism Pitfalls

As writers and authorpreneurs, many of us struggle with how to hold ourselves accountable to our goals without letting perfectionism take over. To offset the pitfalls, we start by developing healthier habits and coping mechanisms to help avoid the downfall of feeling anxious, guilty, and stressed every time we feel we've failed or let ourselves down. When struggling to balance creation with profits, any author who is striving to turn their past hobby into a career knows how hard it is to keep going when you're your own worst enemy. If you're currently grappling between progress and perfectionism and are sick of playing tug of war with yourself, here's a method of habit building and tracking that might help.

Set fresh goals at the beginning of each month:

Using the 3 goal method, setting fresh intentions for the month helps set the guiding structure. Choose 1 goal for writing, 1 for writing-related learning, 1 for self-care. This will ensure you keep balance and burnout prevention at the forefront. When you sit down to make your goals, be sure to ask yourself about what's realistic for your lifestyle, your current writing habits, your time, and your work/life responsibilities. Avoid overestimating or setting goals for "dream" you. For example, if you're a full-time working mom with two kids then it's likely your goals will be impacted by your time allowance versus a single writer in college with no children. If you're a high school student looking to learn how to write, your goals will be outlined based on your skill and experience level versus a full-time writer who has written two novels already. Wherever you are in your process, if you want to build a writing routine that can hold up to perfectionism, base your goals on where you are now versus where you want to be. Remember, there's a difference between goal setting for consistency and habit breaking. Here we're aiming for consistency, not trying to change how we write overall.

Here's two different examples of the 3 goal method:

Example #1 goals:

  1. Writing: Write 1,000 words per day

  2. Learning: Read 2 writing blog posts per day

  3. Self-Care: Read a book in your favorite genre before bed

Example #2 goals:

  1. Writing: Write 5,000 words per week

  2. Learning: Listen to a writing podcast twice a week

  3. Self-Care: Treat yourself to a trip to the bookstore each weekend

Choose pieces rather than the whole:

Think small when setting your monthly goals to help limit feelings of overwhelm and guilt when it all doesn't get done. Example, if you want to write a book, set your monthly goal to write chapters rather than the whole book. If chapters don't work, set the goal even smaller. It might seem like a downgrade at the time, and progress might be slower overall, but steps add up and smaller ones may fit better into busy lifestyles. Remember that regardless of the trade-off, your book will get finished if you keep faith and patience in yourself.

Map out how you'll track progress:

Avoid tracking methods that prey on ego. If you know you'll feel bad if you don't meet a word count, don't measure by word count. Instead, choose a day tracker where progress is measured in number of days you've written rather than on specific days/words. As you see the days add up, it'll keep you motivated so long as it's mixed with rewards to keep you willing to stack them.

Use both private and public accountability:

If you're lacking discipline or the ability to follow through, make it official by announcing your monthly goals to your friends, family, and writing friends online. Having a support system to bolster you will help you stay motivated throughout the month, and putting your word behind your goals will help you want to keep it. If you know social media brings feelings of doubt, insecurity, or competitiveness than use another form of accountability- choose a trusted non-writing friend to be your weekly check-in partner rather than Instagram and communicate either in person or phone rather than a social network.

Use positive reinforcement:

Don't forget to pick a reward (and follow through with indulging). Choose something you really want or something that truly inspires you. If you don't feel the drive to obtain it, choose something else. The allure needs to be enough to keep yourself motivated throughout the month. For the best results set multiple days at regulated intervals, for example at the five, ten, twenty, etc. day marks. Make sure that you're placing positivity around you as well. Placing encouraging quotes around your tracker, keeping your writing space clean, and creating a vision board to revisit each morning can make the process feel lighter even when the stress creeps in.

Accountability check-in:

Mid-month is a good time to host a check-in with yourself. This is a moment that you set aside and ask yourself, honestly and without judgement, how you're doing. Ask yourself the following:

  • Objectively, where are you with your goals?

  • How does looking at your goals feel now?

  • Did you notice any changes week to week?

  • Are there any negative feelings? What about positive ones?

  • Are there things holding you back, for example feeling overwhelmed or like there's not enough time?

  • How are you physically, mentally, and emotionally feeling? For example, do you feel motivated and energetic? Drained and anxious? Distracted and bored?

  • What about these goals isn't serving you? What is serving you?

Keep in mind that the goal of asking yourself these questions isn't to harp over what you're not doing "well". It's to identify where you're being hard on yourself so that changes can be made to alleviate those feelings. By identifying them, you're able to address and then limit what's not working so that you'll find greater success.

Re-assess your break-down:

After completing your accountability check-in, use the information you discovered about your goals to re-assess the break-down. There's no rule that says once you create a goal, you can't change or modify it. Making updates isn't a sign of failure or defeat, it's a smart and reasonable decision that will help you ultimately achieve your goals. With the answers from your check-in, go ahead and adjust your goals as needed.

Using our examples from the beginning of the month, here's what a realistic change might look like:

Example #1 goals:

  1. Writing: Write 1,000 words per day

  2. Learning: Read 2 writing blog posts per day

  3. Self-Care: Read a book in your favorite genre before bed

Updated #1 goals:

  1. Writing: Write 500 words per day on busier days and 1,000 on slower ones

  2. Learning: Read 1 blog post per day or skip on busier days, and 2 on slower ones

  3. Self-Care: Read a book before bed, with a cup of hot tea and soft music or listen to an audiobook on the drive to work in the morning

Example #2 goals:

  1. Writing: Write 5,000 words per week

  2. Learning: Listen to a writing podcast twice a week

  3. Self-Care: Treat yourself to a trip to the bookstore every weekend

Updated #2 goals:

  1. Writing: Write 3,000 words per week on busier weeks and 5,000 on slower ones

  2. Learning: Listen to a writing podcast three times a week

  3. Self-Care: Go to the bookstore once every other weekend

Be honest with where you are:

Now that we've checked in and re-assessed our goals, it's time to be honest. How do we feel about the modifications? How are we feeling about our writing overall? If these new goals still feel like "too much" or "too little" it's time to ask ourselves why. The reason it's important to get back in touch with ourselves here is because perfectionism often pushes us to work harder when what we really need is to work less. Those feelings of self-doubt, the urge to constantly pick out mistakes, and to feel guilty when we're not going above and beyond expectations can all make redefining our goals feel like we're admitting we're not doing well. It's time to address these feelings because they simply aren't true. When we don't address them, it's more likely that we will quit or burnout by pressing onward.

Here's an easy way to objectively see how hard you've been working:

. Be sure to include work, family, children, travel, errands, commuting, lifestyle gains, chores, seeing friends, personal accomplishments, school, learning, etc. Nothing is too small if you spent energy doing it. The reason why it's good to make this in the middle of the month is because it helps you gauge your work versus your energy levels. With fast-paced modern lives, we're all blind to how much "going" we actually do until we find ourselves in the midst of chronic burnout. To help with that, keeping a list like this accounts for all your time whereas it's easy to forget that even the simplest tasks (like taking out the trash) requires expendable energy. Bet you'll find you did way more this month already than you even thought possible!

This practice works because it's an immediate mood boost. It's hard to keep yourself in a "I've done nothing" mindset when the evidence to the contrary is staring right back at you. Here the goal is to look at the bigger picture of your life versus just the micro sale of your writing gains. While it's easy to feel bad because we didn't write half a novel in a month, the proof is in the pudding- we've been busy with life! And as it turns out, writing half a novel just wasn't realistic to begin with.

Adjust as needed:

Hopefully our honesty practice has shown that our perfectionism has taken control of our mindset and created feelings that have no business being in our minds to begin with. The truth is, we've all done something by the middle of the month, and that little voice that tells us we haven't is a flat out lie. This is where we turn it around so we can finish out the rest of the month strong. It's time to go back to the drawing board and tweak our goals. Maybe we're feeling overwhelmed because the 3 goals we've chosen is too much for where we are in life's many stages. Perhaps we feel distracted because we're no longer interested in our current project and would rather work on another. We could be bored because we've set the goals bar too low and we're craving more of a challenge. Whatever the reasoning, it's all acceptable! Let your feelings guide your goals here. Again, there's no right or wrong way on the path to accomplishment, and absolutely no guilt in making changes where they're needed.


Congratulations! You've made it through some really tough decision-making. It's time to celebrate! You're halfway to completing another month and it's important to recognize your commitment and blow off steam. Whether you want a day off from your usual writing routine, extra self-care, time with your loved ones, or some retail therapy pick a bigger reward here and let yourself relax. The goal here is to make yourself feel lighter and refreshed so you'll be more inclined to finish the month motivated.

End of month accomplishments:

Wrapping up the rest of the month means it's time to add the last half of your accomplishments to the list you started earlier. Once you've got your completed list, it's time to give yourself a hearty pat on the back! Was it more than you thought? Ours certainly was. Now it's time to go draw up a bubble bath and relax that stress away with a glass of wine and a good romance book. But in all seriousness, how does seeing this list make you feel? Hopefully it showed you that you've accomplished many things across the board and that it's time to give you and your brain a break from feeling like you're not enough. Rinse and repeat monthly for best results.

Evaluate goals through progress made:

Looking back, how do you feel about the goals you set at the beginning? The ones you adjusted in the middle? How did you feel by the end of the month? Working through these feelings at the end of the month should help you see the variances between the weeks. Maybe the first two weeks felt rough, but after you made the updates things got better. Maybe you experienced the opposite. And maybe the whole month was a dumpster fire and you only now realized why. Whatever the outcome, it's time to remember that the goal of looking back is to evaluate your goals through progress, not perfection. Progress is progress, no matter how small. You may not have met all of your goals to the extent you initially wanted to, but if you kept going this whole month and didn't give up, that's a win. If you got through half of this month, that's a win. If you wrote down ten words in your word document, that's also a win. It's all about perspective so be kind to yourself.

Define what worked and what didn't:

Realistically, you should have a solid idea of what worked and didn't work for you by the end of the month. Keep these in mind as you set your goals for next month. Why didn't certain aspects work? What can be done to help streamline the process? What can be eliminated or redefined so it's less of a hassle? Stay true to your own personal preferences and pay no heed to common writing practices. What might work for another writer might not work for you, period. And that's okay! Trying new ways of writing is a good thing, but ultimately the goal is to find out what works best for you no matter what that looks like.

Be proud!

Last step is to be PROUD. You accomplished a lot by taking these steps and with time, you'll see even better results. Give yourself the space to pause for a moment and soak all the hard work in. See your progress for what it truly is and allow yourself to take pride in that journey. It's what it's all about.

Repeat as needed.

  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
bottom of page