When my baby brother was born not quite sixty years ago this week, I never would have pegged him as my future writing buddy. He wasn’t the sister I’d hoped for, and at first, all he did was sleep. I was three-and-a-half at the time, and I thought he was dumb.
I’ve long since revised my opinion of my younger brother who, it’s turned out, is a kind, creative, smart man who also happens to be a writer and a good friend.
This brother is a playwright. Like me, he’s working on several writing projects at the moment, some with external deadlines and some dependent entirely on self-motivation.
During a recent visit, we both confessed that we were better at meeting externally imposed deadlines. We regularly keep our word when we commit to writing for others, and postpone the projects that mean the most to ourselves. As a result, the projects that are nearest and dearest often languish as we perpetually put them off.
During a recent visit, we came up with a plan to help each other out – simply by holding one another accountable.
We’ve done this before.
The last time, money changed hands. I sent him a considerable sum to hold in escrow, with a deadline attached. If I met my deadline, I got my money back. If I didn’t, he’d spend it on swag advertising organizations or politicians promoting antediluvian policies I loathe, and which as part of the deal, I’d have to wear.
This was a powerful disincentive, and it worked. I met my deadline and he returned the cash.
I returned the favor – and was relieved when he met his deadline. I wasn’t entirely sure I could actually follow through buying him a membership to an organization I despised.
This time, we’ve changed up the plan.
We talk each Friday afternoon: 5pm my time, 2pm his. We each report on how we did meeting the goals we set the previous week, then set goals for the next.
We’re both pretty good at setting measurable and achievable goals. And when our aspirations get the better of us, we’re quick to question one another: Really? You’re going to finish an entire draft by Friday while working your day job and hosting how many out-of-town guests?
Knowing that I have to report on my progress at the end of the week helps keep me on task.
Knowing that my brother will question unreasonable goals helps me set achievable ones.
And knowing that I’m helping him do the same levels out the hierarchy of birth order. Jonathan’s not just my baby brother; he’s a valued writing colleague – and a really good friend.