Don’t Break the Chain, or, Tracking Writing Habits

Fighting to stay accountable to your writing can be difficult, as any one can tell you. How many of us writers hear from friends and family, “Oh, I have this story in my head that’s going to be the next great novel” or something similar? How many times have we said that to ourselves?

If you haven’t heard about Don’t Break the Chain, it’s an initiative to stay accountable to your goals by marking off each day you completed. The intent, of course, is to not break the chain of days you made progress. Now, I had three different goals this year, and I printed out calendar templates for each one…

  1. X number of push-ups twice a week
  2. X number of sit-ups twice a week
  3. Write as often as possible

I lost the calendars for the first two goals after three months, not an auspicious start to the year. But my writing one… well, I switched over to the DIY writing calendar my friend Caitlin O’Sullivan gave me as part of a writer’s care package. It’s looking a little battered, but not super worse for the wear.



Pictured are the first six months of 2014, left to right, top to bottom (i.e. January is top left, Feburary is next, etc). The color legend is fairly simple… red scribbles mean I wrote that day (a paragraph counts), and blue scribbles are days I focused on research.

As you can tell, February and May were terrible months for me, but March and June were pretty fantastic!

Looking back, February was a stressful month because the swing dance team was ramping up for the first competition. I wasn’t dancing due to injuries and work overload, but I attended every practice to take video so team members knew what they needed to work on.

May was awful for writing because I was out of town every weekend, and exhausted during the week because of all the travel. So yes, I let life get in the way, but there has to be a balance!

Anyway, I’m loving this sort of luddite version of a writer’s quantified self. It’s helping me track my stress levels, too, which is funny. I’ve learned that during months where I don’t write often (meaning four or more days), I’m kind of a terrible person. Well, a terrible person to be around, anyway.

So thank you, Caitlin, for sending me this calendar. There’s something important about me scribbling a successful day, rather than checking off a digital calendar. I have two special pens I use to mark the days… it’s become something of a superstition for me.

What about you? What tricks are you doing to stay accountable?