Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Rewards Happy Authors Deserve

By Julie Wright

Writing is sometimes a thankless job with no reward. We spin words on thousands of pages that no one but our moms have read; we mail off queries and get back rejections. We smile over gritted teeth when our friends get contracts, and try to remember that we love our friends, and we're really happy for them. It's hard to stay motivated

If you want a child to do something—to get a chore done—I’ve heard that reward is the greatest tool. If that doesn't work you can try taking away privileges or punishment to motivate the child.

But what happens if you want an *adult* to do something. What happens when you want *yourself* to do something?

I am not easily motivated. As an adult I am no longer swayed by enticements of candy or cookies. I can get those things if I want them--anytime I want them. I'm an adult. That's the perk of being an adult.

And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I should up the reward. Okay fine, if I get my book written, I'll get to go on an exotic trip to Tahiti. Except, I know what my checking account contains (or doesn't contain, as the case may be . . . hello? I'm an author . . .). So I have to be responsible. That's the non-perk of being an adult.

Motivating someone who already knows what they can and can't do is a tough proposition. But I still think it can be done with a few tips to make it easier.

  • Self Control--It's necessary to use good self control to make sure your motivating factors are really motivating. With kids, it's easy to reward or withhold a reward when they do the things they do. You put the cookies up on the higher shelf. You lock up the x-box and hide the key. But when we are self governed it's a little harder. We know where the keys are, and we can reach that high shelf with very little effort. Being honest with yourself and refraining from partaking of an unearned reward will make the reward that much sweeter when you genuinely earn it.
  • Set a daily goal, a weekly goal, a monthly goal, and a final goal. And reward yourself at special milestones. So let's say every fifty pages, you get a manicure, or a massage, or you get a movie night. It makes the journey of writing a little sweeter. I know that our very own Annette Lyon uses chocolate as a motivator. When she finished a daily goal she rewarded herself with a little bit of the really good chocolate. We're not talking Hershey's here. Were talking real CHOCOLATE.
  • Make the final goal something a little bigger. Most of us cannot afford a trip to Tahiti, but maybe you can get play tickets or a weekend getaway to somewhere close by, or season tickets to whatever your favorite sport is. I reward myself with books. When I finish writing a novel, I allow myself to read. I allow myself to read five to ten books in between each novel I write. This makes it so much easier for me not to get distracted in other people's stories and provides me something to work for. I will buy a book (or several books) that I REALLY want to read and put them up on my desk where I have to look at them, knowing I cannot crack their spines until I am done.
  • Make submission goals as well as writing goals. It's great to get a book written, but if you don't submit it to anyone . . . so what? You can't exactly make a goal that states, "I will be published by June." You can't control the publishers and agents. So keep your goals within the realm of things you can control. Set goals for submitting: I will query five different agencies every week for the next six months.
  • Make networking goals. Attending writer's conferences provides you further education and builds friendships with people who understand what you're going through. Make a goal to attend one major conference a year and to maybe attend several smaller ones to help you stay at the top of your game. Make a goal to meet with at least two agents or editors at every conference you attend. Gather business cards.

I have to be honest, as far as rewards go, writing for me *is* the reward. If I don't write, I find myself stuck in depression I can't readily get out of. If I obtain my daily writing goal, I find satisfaction in every other aspect in my life. I love writing. It makes me happy. I can't think of a better reward than that.

So reward yourself and write. You totally deserve it.


Melanie J said...

Rewards are by far the best thing I've done for myself with both weight loss and writing goals. I set little ones to keep me going in the day to day (frozen yogurt after every two pounds I lose) and big ones so I really feel like there's a pay off when I get something done (a new pair of shoes when I hit 50,000 words). You're absolutely right about the self-control thing, though. That's the only reason my reward system works for me. Great post.

Heather B. Moore said...

I like your reward suggestions, Melanie! Especially the shoes :) Hey, I just hit 50,000 in my WIP . . .

Jennifer said...

You're so right about rewards being harder when you're the person doling them out to yourself. It's one thing to say, "If I exercise every day this week, I'll reward myself with a treat." But it's another thing to actually not get the treat if you don't meet the goal!!!

The biggest thing that has been keeping me writing lately is my critique group. If I don't write anything else, at least I write what I have to for my group every 2 weeks. So, one key to motivation is to get other people involved. Then you're not just doling out your own rewards.

Sue said...

You are right - writing is the reward. Unfortunately I have to wade through piles of technical writing before I get to write anything fun. It's SUCKING THE JOY OUT OF MY LIFE. (whine whine)

Celise said...

I took an online course through Author MBA that taught this very thing. About setting goals and when reaching them, to reward yourself. I remember one of my rewards being a picnic in the park with my husband. That never happened, of course. I think I just bought books. LOL

ali said...

Julie, I can't thank you enough for this message today. I SO needed it.