Time to Write: Create a Reward System - article

Many writers can struggle with writer's block. You may feel tired of hammering away at a gold-leaf novel that just doesn't seem to want to make the cut. Those moments can feel particularly difficult in light of the many things you’ve given up in order to allow time for writing. Perhaps you’ve cut down drastically on time with friends, or other favorite activities. Try rewarding yourself to motivate improvement. The things you’ve given up can often help you through the writing hardships.

Choosing your rewards

Stagger rewards so that you receive small rewards for small achievements, and big things--like a day at King's Dominion--for finishing a huge draft of something. For small rewards, engage your more physiological or carnal desires: go get some ice cream with a friend, or sushi, or french fries, or whatever it is you love to indulge in.

For medium-sized rewards, choose fun activities like favorite movies, video games, or fun dates out with friends. It might help also to catch up on your reading and your favorite TV shows. See if you can find fun that stimulates your imagination; it will help your writing in the end.

Choosing when to reward yourself

Reward yourself when you reach certain goals, and when you've pushed past a tough hurdle. According to author and historic weapons expert Walt Kuleck, writing is a little bit like altering a rifle. When you simply can't figure out what's going on, and you've looked into every crevasse for every mistake, and everything you try keeps blowing up on you when you present it to your critics, you do need to take a break. Big projects simply work that way. However, don't stop writing and run to bribe yourself in that moment when you're discouraged. It’s important to finish activities on a high note in order to ensure the success of that activity in the future. Keep writing just one more page, and only then stop. That way, you're rewarding yourself for pushing forward, not for quitting. Come back later, and reward yourself then for coming back to work on the story.

Writing as reward

Everyone gets discouraged and needs some kind of perk to keep going on a difficult task. That's fine, but if you're a writer, to some extent writing should be its own reward. Writing is truly fun. It's a way for you to travel to other places and meet imagined people; to say what you feel without inhibition; to use a part of your soul that longs for exercise. If you hate writing so much that you can't concentrate on it for more than a while, maybe it's because you're not writing the story you really want to write. Throw away your current manuscript for now, and work on something else. Don't stop writing, but maybe switch to writing a more rewarding story!

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