As I near the finish line of my first completed novel, it gets harder and harder to stay interested, to stay motivated. There are no new ideas or scenes anymore, only revisions and tweaks and filling in the details—in other words, the boring stuff; the words come slower and with more difficulty, my mind already wanting to jump ahead to the next story when this one still isn’t done. I force myself to keep going. Sometimes the only thing that gets me through is the reward waiting for me at the end.
Children aren’t the only ones who respond to rewards. I’ve used them throughout my writing process to celebrate milestones or to get me through a tough time. It’s important to keep striving, and if a little bribery is what it takes then hey, why not do it?
I think it’s human nature to be hard on ourselves. We tend to leap to punish when we mess up or fail to perform, instead of focusing on rewarding the small victories. And yes, sometimes punishment is necessary but not if you’re trying to motivate. It has been proven that rewards and recognition are the strongest factors in getting peak performance out of anyone. Too much punishment and you just give up.
Initially I set rewards for major milestones, like when I hit the half-way point, when I finish etc.; these mini-celebrations make me feel good and give me a sense of accomplishment. I’m not ashamed to admit that a little bribery works for me. I already have my “big” reward planned for when the novel is completed and submitted—it’s something I’ve wanted for several years now as I keep starting things and never finishing. I’ve held off on it, dangling it out there as enticement to finally complete a novel. It’s what is keeping me at this computer today.
Rewards don’t have to be big or expensive. I’m not talking about a pair of new shoes or fancy trips or things like that. I prefer to use every day things. Oftentimes I will make deals with myself that if I can just finish my daily quota I will treat myself to a Starbucks latte, or a nice cold rum and coke, or I will allow myself to sit down and read a book I’ve been waiting to read or watch a little porn. These are things I might do anyway, but putting sense of achievement around them makes me work harder. If I happen to fail in my goal, I also don’t feel too badly about missing out. These little things make all the difference mentally. It’s not as though I’m only writing to get the reward—the novel is my ultimate reward—but an incentive now and then goes a long way.
Today I reached my 60K milestone, which is the minimum word count for a print edition with my publisher—anything after that is bonus. My reward for this…? Pizza for dinner and a night of binge watching House of Cards. See what I mean? It doesn’t take much!