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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rewarding yourself for accomplishments

I'm a big fan of setting goals, but I'm also a big fan of rewarding yourself for meeting those goals. These rewards should be on a par with what you've accomplished -- small rewards (a piece of chocolate) for small accomplishments and large ones (a spa day) for bigger ones. For instance, I've been working on a new book this week, and thankfully I've surpassed my daily goal each day. As a reward, I get to watch a movie each night. Not big, but it's a nice incentive. If I've met the goal, I can take those couple of hours for myself guilt-free.

You can break it down into mini-rewards for mini-goals throughout the day. Though I'm going to use writing examples, you can adjust them to whatever you need to get done each day. I've found that writing in set time slots works well. For instance, I look at the clock. Say, it's sitting at 8:30 a.m. I make a deal with myself that if I write until 9:30, I can get up and do other things -- get something to eat, take a short walk, check e-mail. But limit the reward time to perhaps 10-15 minutes so that you can get in another writing (or house cleaning or paperwork or whatever) spurt. Or you could say, I can take that break/reward when I've written five pages (or cleaned the bathrooms). This is a good way to increase production while also tricking your brain into thinking, "I only have to do X before I get a treat."

That's small rewards. On the other end of the spectrum, there are bigger rewards for bigger accomplishments. Finish a book or complete a demanding project at work or finish painting the house? Take a totally guilt-free spa day or a day filled with a movie, lunch and shopping with friends. I like to do this between projects to get away from the computer for a day. If you've been getting lots accomplished for a good amount of time, maybe you deserve a beach vacation. I have lots of friends who when they sold their first books, they rewarded themselves with something like a really nice piece of jewelry. When I sold my first book, I bought myself a TiVo! No more appointment TV! :)

It's important to reward ourselves for good behavior. Hey, we start this practice young for children, so why stop when we're adults. It helps us accomplish more and feel good about ourselves in the process. So get out there and accomplish great things...and then reward yourself.


At 9:59 AM, Blogger Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Trish! I'm all about the rewards and "ringing the bell" for even the smallest of wins. I'm kinda Pavlovian that way, I respond well to rewards. Ha! I think if you keep up with rewards, then the varibles and plain out opaque idiocy of this biz - the writing biz - isn't as apt to get to you and make you quit. :>

Then again, I just like rewards. Snork.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Ladyhawk said...

I so wish rewards worked for me. I read a book recently about overcoming writer's block. Karen Peterson suggested making the reward equal to the work, ie, write 15 minutes: do what you want 15 minutes. It worked great, at first. Then I'd find myself distracted and suddenly nothing is being accomplished. Rewards work short term for me, as in for a few days, but it isn't long before I fall into old habits. Am I the only one? Is there something wrong with me?

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Hi, Trish :-)! When I sold my first piece of writing (a short essay in a Scholastic Books anthology), my husband gave me matching funds for a special purchase. When I sold my second work, he couldn't afford to match the advance--ha!

Loved your TiVo story :-). I'm looking forward to the day I can take a chunk from one of my paychecks and use it to make another special purchase or treat my family to a vacation weekend. Thoughts of those future rewards can help me settle down to work, more determined than ever to make good things happen :-)!

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Aw, Judy, I feel for you. I find that no matter how much time I have available for writing, and no matter how much I'm willing to write, I simply can't be all that productive if I don't have some good ideas for new material. And since I have difficulty planning ahead (or, if I do plan ahead, things feel stale when I get where I'm going), I find myself in this trap often.

I'll bet you don't have trouble staying engaged with your writing when you're engaged with your characters & story, hm? Is there a chance you're rushing your process? Maybe you need to indulge in some reading or daydreaming or find some other way to get your juices flowing before you sit down to work.

On the other hand...I'm the last person who should be giving other writers advice ;-)!

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Rewards work short term for me, as in for a few days, but it isn't long before I fall into old habits. Am I the only one? Is there something wrong with me?

You are not the only one, Judy! My vow this year is to re-establish those good work, eating, and exercising habits I had in the past. Working, controlling eating and exercising are hard. My theory is that we all have to keep working on this. For some of us, our natural state is to be slugs and we have to constantly battle to be healthier and more productive.
That said, I'm going to start writing (for the first time this week)

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Rewards work short term for me, as in for a few days, but it isn't long before I fall into old habits. Am I the only one? Is there something wrong with me?

You are not the only one, Judy! My vow this year is to re-establish those good work, eating, and exercising habits I had in the past. Working, controlling eating and exercising are hard. My theory is that we all have to keep working on this. For some of us, our natural state is to be slugs and we have to constantly battle to be healthier and more productive.
That said, I'm going to start writing (for the first time this week)

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Jeanne, I think we're all a bit Pavlovian. :)

Judy, maybe you can use a kitchen timer. It's an audible way to know when the time is up on whatever you're doing. I've not used one, but I've heard others who do.

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Terry, that's actually good that your husband can't match the advance anymore. :)

My next "big" reward I've said I'd do is this -- when (notice I say when; I choose to think positively) I hit the NYT list, I'm going to Disney World and staying IN THE PARK, not at a cheaper place outside that requires me to drive back and forth. I want to stay either at the Animal Kingdom or the Fort Wildnerness Lodge.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Trish -

I rarely think of rewarding myself but a friend of mine recently called to congratulate me on something that had happened and asked what I was going "to do" - as in celebrate? She told how she'd bought a really cool wall hanging to put in her office to remember that special moment by. I had to think for a bit but I did come up with an idea. "g"

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

You totally should celebrate the successes, Dianna.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Judy -

I think you've gotten great advise from the other Noodlers already. Here's mine:

Sometimes the best thing you can do is tell yourself you "aren't" going to write or think about your story - nothing for at least two weeks. [I did this once when I really hit the wall and my brain needed a break, because I work and write 7 days a week.] Every time you think about it make yourself think about something else you'd rather do. Take that time you'd be writing to do anything you want or nothing at all - guilt free.

If you're meant to write that story, ideas will keep popping in your mind and driving you so nuts you'll finally have to write something down and that will very likely get you rolling again.

Sometimes it's our internal pressure of "I should be writing" or "I've got to get this book done" that interferes most with the natural creative process. It prevents you from enjoying why you originally sat down to write.

I think regardless if you plot or write by the seat of your pants - all the rewards in the world aren't going to push you to write if you aren't excited about your story. That's what drove all of us to write those first lines. We were excited to put our rush of fresh ideas down on paper.

My two cents. :)

At 1:51 PM, Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Hi Trish! What a great post and full of your usual wit and wisdom! I've definitely started to reward myself for the BIG things at least. I bought myself a gorgeous stirling silver heart when I got my last book accepted (you'll all see it at nationals!). Every time I wear it, I think of how hard I worked on that *&%$$$ story ;-) And yesterday, I had a headache all day because I went out with my oldest friend to my favorite restaurant and really had a good time which involved far too much food and alcohol. I don't mind those kinds of headaches, though!

Judy, friends of mine swear on the kitchen timer method. Everyone can sit still for 10 or 15 minutes and you can do a page in that time if you're lucky.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Great point! We do have to reward ourselves. I really don't want to clean tomorrow, but I have to so I will. If I get the upstairs presentable by the time I have to leave to sit in car pool lane, I'm renting a DVD--The Duchess.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Ladyhawk said...

Thanks, Terry. Funnily enough, I'm not particularly good at daydreaming, so maybe it's time to start practicing. I like my characters, but I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with them. I've tried interviewing, and they got completely out of hand! I didn't recognize them after the first page!

Dear Diane, there is something reassuring knowing I'm not the only one! So, if you start today, I'll start today. LOL!

Trish and Anna, thank you for the suggestion. The timer does work, sometimes. :-)

Wow, Dianna, never thought of trying that before. I can already feel that itch to write. I have to confess, telling me I CAN'T do something is almost a sure-fire way to push me into doing it. Never liked to think of myself as contradictory, but I suppose that proves I am. I will give your idea a try.

And maybe I could try making a list of possible rewards... can't afford anything big, but the chance to choose from a number of little things...

Thanks everyone! I'm not feeling nearly as discouraged. :-)

Great post.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Years ago I worked with an extremely disturbed, low-functioning boy (probably FAS) who spent a lot of time in mental hospitals. He always behaved well around me and seemed to look forward to our visits, but possibly because his mom would forget to visit him for months at a time. His short term memory was very poor, and there was always a significant problem in getting him to make a connection between his actions and consequences.

One time when I went to visit him, I was told they were trying "M&M therapy". That meant if he could behave properly for 15 minutes, he got an M&M.

It did work, temporarily. But the problem occurs, as you might suspect, when you run out of M&Ms.

That's what happens to me. I can say I'll reward myself with an M&M for 15 minutes writing. Works for the first 15 minutes. Then the wicked thought creeps in, "Who's to say I can't have two M&Ms? For that matter, who's to say I can't eat the whole bag and write later?"

When it comes to chocolate, I'll always cheat.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Hi, Trish--I completely agree about the rewards thing. I tend to save a book I want to read until I hit a milestone. Then I can read it. Or I buy a CD or DVD but can't play it until I hit the goal.

Cleaning the bathroom is never a goal. *g* It's what I choose as a virtuous form of avoidance.

My reward used to be a grande caramel frappuccino, but I'm trying to get away from making sweets a regular reward. Occasional indulgence is okay, but I don't metabolize them well enough to deal with them on a regular basis.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Tawny said...

I looove rewards, Trish! I love even more reading posts that tout the benefits of rewards LOL. I have a tradition of rewarding myself for book contracts with a new pair of shoes. After the craziness of the holidays, I think I'm going to institute a new reward system of a massage after I turn in a book.

I don't do well in the little picture with rewards, though. The x number of hours work vs this or that treat. I only seem to be motivated by the big picture.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Anna, can't wait to see your pretty silver necklace. And you, of course. :)

Mo, good reward. I haven't seen The Duchess, but it's on my Netflix queue.

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Judy, I'm glad you're feeling encouraged after reading through everyone's comments. Yay!

Dean, I definitely recognize the cheating-at-chocolate thing. I must confess I'm guilty. :)

Nancy, I've done that with books I want to read. If I'm on deadline and I know the book I want to read is one that I won't be able to put down, I have to wait until I'm finished with my deadline. I had to do that with a J.R. Ward book and told her so at RT.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Tawny, why am I not surprised your reward system involves shoes? :) I love the massage one though. I know one big-time author who gets one once a week. That's my goal -- to make enough writing that I can AFFORD a massage once a week.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I'll have to remember to use the reward system, and I like Tawny's idea about shoes.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger jo robertson said...

Hey, great topic, Trish. I think those kinds of rewards are important. When I publish my first book (please, before I'm using a cane LOL), I intend to take the vacation of a lifetime!

I'm all for rewards. It's funny how those little things motivate us. I'll glance at the clock (like you do) and promise myself to write for a solid hours; then I can get up and have a snack or make a phone call or something.

I'm with the Duchesse. I love rewards!

So good to see so many old friends over here! Uh, not OLD, you know, just familiar LOL.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I need to start rewarding myself for the small successes and not just the big ones. I have an English bone china tea cup for each contest final and I love to see them sitting in their display cabinet in my writing studio.

And Delle, those M&Ms had me at "hello" too! If I could pare it down to just a handful for every page written I might be okay. But once the bag is open .... well ....

I'll try the kitchen timer method and see. Anything to get me cranking out the pages more quickly.

And I DO save the books I really want to read as rewards for meeting my self-imposed deadlines. However, I need to be a bit stricter on myself. Finishing a chapter is NOT enough to garner reading an entire book!

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Louisa, I love the idea of the china cups for contest finals. See, that's something that really appeals to you and means something. I think everyone should have a similar ritual.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Christine Wells said...

Ahh, Trish, I love this idea. I so rarely reward myself, but I did buy a couple of significant items when I received my advance from the first sale. A gorgeous piece of 17th century Chinese porcelain and a diamond pendant necklace.

Still, I'm sure I can do better at rewarding myself for small achievements along the way. Thanks for the reminder!


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