Saturday, August 20, 2011

Making Peer Pressure Your Friend

Peer pressure has gotten a really bad rap! When we think of peer pressure, the typical connotation is around pressure to do something "bad." While that sort of peer pressure undoubtedly exists, there's also a tremendously positive kind of peer pressure as well.

Four or five years ago, there was an internet meme to put together a list of "100 things to do in the next 1001 days" or something of that nature. I spent a fair amount of time building such a list. While the exercise was worthwhile personally in terms of helping me think about what I truly valued, I ended up not following through on a large percentage of the items.

A big problem was that there wasn't anyone holding me accountable to the list besides myself. After a while, simply not looking at the list became a really easy thing to do.  Among the items I didn't complete in the allocated 1001 days were running in a 5K and doing NaNoWriMo.

Last summer, for reasons that I no longer remember, I decided to get serious about running in a 5K. I got back to a training regimen and signed up for a race. The other thing I did was talk about it. I mentioned my workouts on Facebook and told friends at work I'd signed up for the 5K. Once I'd started talking about it, people would ask me how my training was going or how soon race day was.

With family, friends, and co-workers all aware of my plans, I'd gotten rid of the opportunity to easily back out of going through with my plans. And it worked! About a year ago, I completed a 5K; while I walked about as much as I ran and my time was nothing to write home about, it's still an accomplishment I feel good about. Peer pressure worked for me!

Recently, I've been doing the same thing with my writing. I've been telling everyone on Facebook and Twitter about how my writing's been coming along and especially about my plans to do this year's NaNoWriMo. I figure by November, it should be impossible for me to go through more than a couple days without someone asking how my novel is coming along. Naturally, I'll want to be able to (honestly) tell them that it's going well -- that I'm at or ahead of my target word count, and so on. Peer pressure may yet help me write a novel!

Now, I've been fortunate in that my peers have been either supportive of my pursuits or at least willing to ignore the crazy man talking about writing a novel in 30 days. If you have friends or family that you think will make the process unpleasant, then you might want to exclude them from your "peer pressure" network. In that case, maybe shouting it from the Facebook wall isn't optimal. However, you can select people that you trust to urge you on in a positive manner, and let them know about your plans. A local writers' group or finding some NaNoWriMo "writing buddies" might do the trick, in this case. Just make sure you don't only pick people who you know will cut you slack too easily if you start giving hints about backing down from your plans. Remember, "pressure" is part of what we're going for here!

If you find that you have lots of dreams that you don't chase and half-finished plans, a nice healthy dose of peer pressure might be exactly what you need.


  1. I have a wonderful place to "spend" NaNoWriMo at. There's a chatroom at that opens only for NaNo and I've been there for the both years I participated. I practically lived there :) They have a chat bot that keeps a list of participants (which gets enormous), and each participant can put their wordcount there, so everyone can see how far everyone else got. It also keeps track what your wordcount should be, your goal for the day, how far you're behind and how many words a day you need to catch up... You can do word wars with other writers, ask for help when you get stuck, or even race with your fellow NaNoers, which can be quite a motivation :D. My Nano's wouldn't have been nearly as fun without the people there, and I doubt I would have made it on my own. I can not imagine doing NaNo any other way. There's nothing saying peer pressure like 20-30 people cheering you on!

    The only drawback is that you're in danger of writing more words on the chat than on your novel! It can be very distracting if you don't have proper self-discipline, like me :D Also, they have a great writing community on deviantart, it's a good place to get critique on your work and find beta readers.

    There's also a group on facebook that started a few months ago, I think it's called Camp NaNoWriMo, but I'm not too big on facebook. They organize NaNo's the whole year around, although, for me, it's not NaNo if it's not November :)

  2. Daina, thanks for mentioning that! I'll have to check it out when the time rolls around.