The first week of January is behind us. Our good intentions and resolutions are still written boldly across our hearts and days in what looks like indelible ink, but past experience has proven again and again that those fresh, black statements are less permanent than they seem.
In a few weeks time, it’s all too likely that our commitment will begin to waver, our resolve will begin to crack, and reality will insert itself into our daily rounds in the most inconvenient (not to mention inconsiderate) ways.
This is when you need to do whatever it takes to hold your ground.
This is not the time to let a little stumble send you sliding down the slippery slope of I’ll-get-back-on-track-tomorrow.
Don’t wait. Bring out the big guns.
When your inner writer begins to wobble, skip the pep talk and the whip cracking and go for the bribe.
That’s right. Bribe yourself.
This is no time to be squeamish. Your whole year is on the line. You want to establish the right writing habits right out of the gate.
What do you want? What do you really, really want?
Apart from finishing your story or novel or whatever (because, clearly, that isn’t enough of a motivation for you to keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game).
I’m not dissing you. Truly. The truth is, each of us has BIG wants and small wants. We have the long-term goals (write a book), but it can be hard to hold on to those in the short term. In the short term, I’ve found that things like chocolate, new notebooks, and even jewelry are much more effective. I don’t berate myself for this. I may be a writer, but I’m also only human. If I need a bit of a carrot to maintain forward momentum, so be it.
There are two basic types of bribes:
The Cascading Reward:
You have a lot of responsibilities in your life. You need to prioritize, right? That’s what the cascading reward system is all about. Though I have used this method in the past, I hadn’t known what to call it until I heard the gang from the Writing Excuses podcast talking about it. One of the writer hosts was explaining to a young writer that she could set up a cascading reward system that went something like this:
- When I finish my homework, I can write.
- When I finish my writing, I can go see see my friends.
- When I’ve seen my friends, I can play XBox.
The idea is to keep egging yourself on with the promise of something better than what you’re doing now.
The Flat-Out Gimme-Gimme Bribe:
And then there’s the plain, old if-you-do-this-you-can-have-that bribe. This is the method used by generations of parents to coerce errant children into doing things like putting away their toys and earning good marks at school. Secret: it works just as effectively on your inner writer-child.
You can be all kinds of creative with the gimme-gimme bribe. You can set micro rewards like “If you finish this scene/blog post/chapter, you can have a cupcake/ten minutes on Facebook/a private sing-a-long with your favorite song.” For more challenging tasks, you can set more substantial bribes – maybe a new novel from your favorite indie bookstore, a trip to the local coffee shop for your favorite hot beverage, or a guilt-free movie night with your honey. And then there are the milestone bribes – the biggies that you can pin on your bulletin board like the proverbial carrot before the horse. This would include things like dinner at your favorite Italian restaurant, that snazzy new bracelet you saw on etsy, or even a weekend away. You might even promise yourself an adorable new kitten. (Hey – works on kids, right?)
The main thing – whether you go for the cascading or the gimme-gimme approach – is to do whatever you need to do to keep yourself on the straight and narrow. It’s all about results, baby. You just want to get “it” (whatever “it” is) done. Whatever tactic you choose, it’s a means to an end. That’s all. Don’t beat yourself up because you have to resort to bribery. I guarantee you that even the most successful writers resort to these techniques. We are writers. We love writing. But, that doesn’t mean it comes easily. Sometimes you have to grease the wheels a little. Sometimes our love of the craft isn’t enough. That’s okay. You don’t get points taken away because you needed a little extra help to get over the hump. Give yourself a break and go for the bribe. You might even have fun with it. Who knows?
QUESTION: Have you ever bribed yourself to meet a writing goal? What worked best?
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.