Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rewards and Punishments Don't Work

A month ago, I decided to submit my book to agents on October 31. About 2 weeks into it, progress was somewhat slow. I realized I needed a better work ethic. Maybe I could have some kind of reward system to motivate me to meet my writing goals.

The problem is I can’t think of any good rewards because I already do what I want. I can’t say, “If I write for two hours today I get a bubble bath,” because I would just respond with, “Shoot, I’ll take a bubble bath right now.”

It can’t be something I can buy because if I could afford something I wanted, I would have bought it already. It can't be an edible reward because if I wanted to eat something, I would have eaten it already.

This whole seize the day thing isn’t working in my favor.

My husband suggested I use punishments instead of rewards (i.e. no candy bars until I finish 2,000 words), but I don’t want writing to feel like a chore.

I guess my only motivators will have to be the pure pleasure of writing, the satisfaction of accomplishment, and coming closer to my dreams.

Why is that not enough?

It’s so ironic. I love writing more than anything else in the entire world, so you would think I’d fight to get to the computer. It’s just like exercise; I love doing it, I love how I feel afterwards, and I love the results. But do I ever exercise, ever? No. Not even a little bit.

I have no answers to these questions. So, I’d like to open the floor to my readers.

1.       How often do you write? Everyday without fail, everyday but you’re not strict, infrequently but you write a ton when you get to it, or is it hit and miss?
2.      How long are your writing sessions?
3.      Do you do anything to motivate yourself to write? Rewards? Punishments?


  1. 1. Yes, I write every day. Sometimes it's no more than a paragraph in my journal, but usually it's a minimum of 500 to 1000 words between blogs, emails and social media, plus another 200 to 2000 on a creative project.

    2. My writing sessions are as long as I can make them. Period.

    3. My reward is writing. It happens after home schooling 3 kids, chores, and all the periphery of writing (social networking, blogging, studying etc).

  2. 1. I write almost every day but Sunday. Sometimes I do miss, because that's just life, but I get anxious if I miss too many in a row (unless I'm on vacation).

    2. I write for an hour or two at a time. I usually get about 2 hours for my son's nap, and then 1-2 hours in the evening, depending on if my hubby is working or not (he works nights).

    3. My motivation is mostly just the story. I LOVE working on my book and usually can't wait to get back to it. Of course, there are some days when I'd rather do anything but write, but for me, it's more a matter of habit than of reward. I have gotten into the habit of writing at certain times, so it's just instinct to do it now. It was hard work to get to that point, but so worth it. Now, even when I don't really feel "struck by the muse," I still sit myself down and get to work.

    I don't know if that's helpful. Good luck finding what works for you!

  3. I think things change once time becomes limited. I value my writing time so much because I'm so overextended in my schedule—writing is my "me" time, my "muse break". Frankly, I don't have issues sitting down to write. But I'm good at procrastinating and not using my time as effectively as I'd like. So to get past that, I try to set goals for each writing session, whether it's revamping a scene, or writing a dialogue passage. It also helps to get offline. I use utilities like Freedom (for mac) to keep me unplugged for a set amount of time. I usually set it initialy to 90 minutes since once I get past that amount of time, I'm usually safely in the flow.

    Another motivator: fear of poverty—I want to sell this novel and don't want to feel foolish for wasting time.

  4. My goal is to write every day. I don't beat myself up if I don't do it, but I generally do it. I try for an hour, but the goal is SOMETHING (on my fiction - so blog posts don't count) every day.

    I am an elementary school teacher. I have to leave the house really early in the morning and my mind used to be too fried to write after school. I would write a ton on breaks and nothing when school was in session. This was not good for me or my writing. One year, after reading a book called TIME TO WRITE, I decided to carve out at least 15 minutes a day. The amount was small, which made it possible to build my stamina and to build the daily habit. I carved it out by not hitting the snooze button. I inevitably ran our of time before I was sone, which meant I always had a jumping off point the next day, so the terror of the blank page was greatly reduced. I finished the first, very rocky, draft of my second novel by the end of the school year, and found it easier and easier to write every day because I had built my muscles. The results, and the joy of writing, and the forward momentum were my main reward.

  5. I try really hard to write five days per week - It doesn't always work. But I find I get the most work done when I get away from the house (too many distractions). I go to SBUX once per week for about four hours. Since I'm there to write, I'm pretty prolific, but it's not always good, LOL. When I write 10 pages in a day, I feel really good about it.

  6. I just read the funniest article that is so relevant to this post. It's about how prison drastically improved an author's career:

  7. I write a short story every week, but they are indeed 'short'. Each does not even reach 1,000 words. I'm lucky if I work on my rewrite or a poem or a scene I'm editing. I'm addicted to blogs.

  8. I think connecting with other people on a regular basis about your goals really, really helps. They don't even have to writers, just other people with accountability group. It works.

  9. I write five days a week and each day allow myself to stop when I've reached 1k - though often I'll write a little more. Weekends are geared more to critting others or querying. I also force myself to leave the chair every hour just to walk around and stretch.


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