Monday, September 13, 2010


In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.  -Ingersoll
I've filled in the first couple of months on my four-month calendar. As I was writing in my "expected completion date" for the current project I considered whether I should plan a reward - which of course started me thinking about writing and rewards. Do you give yourself rewards for writing? Do you write a certain amount of words before you allow yourself to check facebook, twitter, blogs, etc? Do you get to have chocolate M&M's for every page you write?

I don't.

I took a Behavior Modification class many years ago in University. According to the professor, this method works well for people who suffer any number of psychological disorders - and it works quickly.  No long drawn out psychoanalysis. Just change the consequences and you change the behavior. We had to design our own Behavior Modification project for ourselves. It didn't work with me. I think the problem is rewarding MYSELF. If I control the reward, I can't fool myself into believing that I'll actually withhold something I really want. Yet, I feel if I let someone else control the reward I'm behaving like a child. I think my problem is the artificial deadlines for an unpublished author. In the back of my mind I know there are no immediate consequences to not finishing my pages for the day/week/month. Now, long term the consequences are huge. If I don't write I won't get published.

As I've mentioned before, I have an in person crit group that meets every second week and I almost always have pages for that. Not as many as I would like but still, it has kept me moving forward - even if it is slowly. So, external deadlines and commitments matter to me. And it doesn't really matter what the commitment is, once I say I'll do something, I do it. I think it has to do with self image. I see myself as a "responsible" person, a person of her word. (this blogging thing is better than a therapist)

How can I translate that piece of logic into my everyday writing routine?

I have to see myself as a serious writer.

I am a writer. Therefore I write.

Do you use rewards as a way to motivate yourself to write? What kind? And how does that work for you?


Hello. My name is Elizabeth. said...

I don't use rewards, though probably I should. I don't cut myself a whole lot of slack, either. For me, the reward is not feeling like crap at the end of the day. A blank page is like a welcome mat for all those mean things I tell myself, like "this is stupid" or "you can't do it" or "it's never going to happen." I write to keep the crazies at bay.

Anne MacFarlane said...

Elizabeth, I like the way you think.

Michelle Helliwell said...

Hi Anne - I just love reading your blog, and I'm just catching up on a few posts.

My reward for finishing my first manuscript was to join RWAC - I figured then I could say that I was serious about writing by finishing something. But aside from that, I don't use rewards for writing either, and I think you're right on base with the behavior modification thing. I'm the same way. It's all about the consequences in the end. For me, living with the regret of not writing and giving it my best shot to be an author is, for me, the consequence I'm not prepared to live with. Being able to live with myself is the reward.
I haven't been writing as frequently as I should be lately but I am always amazed at my own desire to keep going and write when I other areas of my life I am not really a finisher of things.

Now if I could only apply that thinking to diet/exercise, I'd be a winner:)

Anne MacFarlane said...

Michelle, I think it's the immediacy of everyday life that makes us put our writing aside in favor of doing something that has more immediate rewards.