You'll hear me talk a lot about how writing is my third job. I'm a mom to two boys (4 and nearly 2) and a middle school Language Arts teacher. Writing gets done when I can squeak it in and not a second sooner.
And, seriously, sometimes there are days/weeks/months when I don't get anything done. SOL time, holidays, family illnesses that crop up during the school year. Until and unless writing becomes a full-time job for me there are two jobs more important to me right now.
Don't get me wrong, I love writing. But there are really only 24 hours in a day, no matter how I look at the clock.
I get up every weekday morning and write from 5:30-6:00. Writing on the weekend is done during nap time or once the kids go to bed. My word count goals for first drafts are this: weekdays-1k words, weekends-2kw words/day. All in all, I'm looking for about 9k words a week.
However this doesn't always happen. In fact, this rarely happens. I cannot always meet my word count. Because, let's face it, at the end of the day, after teaching 90 13-year olds, after cooking dinner, taking walks, feeding chickens, and playing with boys, writing is not the top thing on my list. Sitting on my butt on the couch is.
This is one reason we don't have television. I would never get things done!
This is a good reason for my motivational technique, though. I buy television shows on DVD to watch. My favorite are, of course YA shows, such as my current favorite: The Vampire Diaries.
So here's how I trick myself:
Me: You have to write 1k words today.
Me: Okay, but what's my motivation.
Me: If you write 1k words today you can watch an episode of The Vampire Diaries.
Me: Ian Somerhalder as a vampire?
Me: Yes, indeedy.
Me: Where the computer? Let's knock these words out.
On a good day, I can get my 1k words out in my 30-minute morning writing. On an average day, I get about 500 words in the morning and then I have to force myself to write 500 words in the evening. On a bad writing day, I don't meet my word count goal. On a horrible day, I don't write.
But on those bad and horrible days I don't get to drool over Ian Somerhalder. I get sad. It hurts. And you're right if you think that works for added motivation the next day.
Here are my reward rules:
1. Find a reward that means something
2. Set a reasonable goal. You don't want to set yourself up for failure but you don't want to make it too easy on yourself, either.
3. Limit the reward. I only allow myself 1 episode (or one hour) of dvds per 1000 words. So, on the weekend, I may get to watch a movie, or two episodes of TVD.
4. If I don't meet the word count, I don't get the reward. Period.
5. If I want to watch more, I have to write more.
6. Adjust as necessary.
7. Also, and this one is just personal: I will not start my reward if I'm not done writing by 9:20. My bed time is 10:00--I give myself an hour to read and lights out at 11:00, so if the show doesn't start by 9:20, I won't be in bed by 10!
8. Extra words don't carry over to the next day. If I write 3,000 words on a Tuesday, that's great, but it doesn't mean I don't have to write for the next two days.
Some days are just bad, be honest. Some days are so horrible that no amount of reward, not even a shirtless Ian Somerhalder episode of TVD is going to help. Some days, I just CANNOT write and I NEED Ian Somerhalder.
It's okay to cheat. Sometimes.
But if you make cheating a daily habit, you've lost your reward system. So be careful how much you "need" to cheat.
Hey, if you want to be a writer, you've got to sacrifice for it, right?
So, how do you reward yourself?