Benefits of Public Accountability

Even a mere five days into December and my list of things to do this year, I am finding the process helpful and encouraging.  Encouraging, of course, is the interest people have shown in the list, which I quite understand — an account of goals and aspirations gives a window into someone’s mind; I don’t see why my mind can’t be as interesting as anyone else’s.  It’s the sense of peeking (legitimately) inside that we find fascinating, not necessarily the details.

Quite apart from this, though, is the actual process.  I made pasta on Saturday for the first time, despite many previous occasions where I had the material and time — even extra egg yolks (I have a cookie recipe I’ve made four or five times in the last six months that leaves me with unused yolks, most of which I’ve thrown out rather than made good use of).  Yesterday I walked for about an hour longer than I might otherwise have, in order to get to the end of a street on the peninsula, since it was a lovely afternoon and I thought I might as well. 

The most obvious, though, was writing.  I got up late and ended up not writing first thing yesterday morning, then only writing for about fifteen minutes.  By the evening, I was torn between watching a movie, continuing to read Going Postal, and the vague desire to see if I couldn’t finish the chapter I’ve been working on.  Going Postal was winning, until I suddenly thought about how I really didn’t want to give up my goal of writing for a full hour every day within the first week of trying.  I mean, I would feel obliged to tell you that I’d failed so soon; and I wouldn’t get to cross it off on my wall chart (a very useful thing for forming new habits, by the way; crossing them off daily gives a nice sense of concrete achievement, and you can see the chain forming); and, of course, it would be one step towards the finished book, the writing life, not taken.

So I wrote, and although I didn’t end up finishing the chapter, I did work out a number of plot details that had been frustrating me.  I actually ended up writing for two hours, for — like exercising other muscles — I find writing one of those things harder to start than it is to continue.  Some form of inward inertia, I suspect, where it’s easier to keep going when in motion and easier to stay at rest when not.   

So, apart from everything else, my list is a kind of flying buttress.  Public accountability helping to shore up one’s weak will-power.  Not a bad thing to know about myself, really.


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