The Motivational Resolution Game by Wyatt Bessing
Welcome back to monthly columnist, Wyatt Bessing. A writing coach and teacher, author, Wyatt Bessing shares his fun take on games, play, and how they help our writing. This month Wyatt gives us tips on how to stay motivated. Enjoy!
This month’s game is a motivational challenge. I was recently reminded of the motivational power of personal challenges as I guided several third to twelfth grade classes through that writing marathon of November, National Novel Writing Month. 90% of my students reached their ambitious word count goals, and they won NanoWriMo! You should have seen the looks of pure joy on their faces as they reached their goals and celebrated their victories.
They were transformed. Students who’d always struggled with writing begged us to continue our daily lunchtime writing salon. They willingly gave up their lunchtime to write, and loved every minute of it. What was it that had motivated them so highly?
The prizes and camaraderie no doubt played a part in creating such a successful experience, but their goals – just within reach but quite challenging – and the fact that we held them accountable to those goals, were the most crucial parts of creating that change. As the motto for Writer’s Fun Zone states: “Reach for the Stars. Play like a Child. Write like a fiend.”
That’s exactly what these kids did. The more they wrote, the more I saw my students transforming, loving the worlds and characters that began appearing before their eyes. This new ability became a wonderful intrinsic motivation, the pure passion of creation.
I want to help recreate that sense of challenge and excitement throughout the year, for myself and for you!
First, create a progress chart for yourself, just like the one I used for my NanoWriMo students. For my own chart, I made three bar graphs – Pages, Submissions, and Publications. Set a reasonable goal, but make it ambitious. For 2014, I want to write 600 pages, submit twenty-four pieces, and have six sales. Be sure to make these bar graphs colorful and visually appealing so you’ll want to look at them and check in on them weekly!
Next, divide each goal into a weekly or monthly benchmark. For example, my weekly page goal is only twelve pages, which sounds much more manageable than 600! Every two months, I want to sell a single story or novel.
Of course, a chart may not be enough motivation for you. Extrinsic motivation can be a powerful force for change as well. You have to tell someone else in order to hold yourself accountable. Put your chart up in your writing area where you can see it, tell your writing friends your goals, and check in weekly to keep one another on track.
And what about those prizes we offered to our students, the beautiful, extrinsic, material motivation of stuff? Make some! What’s a writer’s favorite prize? How about delicious and devilish words!
Finally, using index cards, create a set of 52 Prize Cards, or one for each of your benchmarks if you have monthly as well as weekly goals. These can be sensory-stimulating words, naughty words, or sophisticated words. When you meet your goal for the week, your prize will be to select a word and use it during your next writing session.
Here’s a sampling of my Prize Words: dungeon, wax, slurp, ethereal.
Of course, you can make cards representing real prizes for yourself and mix those into or substitute them for your Word Prizes. These Prize Cards will list treats you wouldn’t normally give yourself – A Day Away from Writing, Full Fat Latte, Movie Night, New Book, or Road Trip!
I awarded each of the three classes with the highest word count a Video Game Party! Their regular teachers happily went along with it. After all, for the entire month they had diligently focused on achieving their goals; one hour of frivolity and fun was a wonderful prize that would leave them feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenge.
Whatever you choose for your reward, remember to celebrate your success by pinning your Prize Card up on the wall next to your progress chart. You earned it!
Wyatt Bessing is a writer, writing coach, and learning specialist. His stories and essays have appeared in Bedtime-Story.com, Outsider Ink, national educational assessment materials, and in the anthology Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice. Through his workshops, website, and blog at wyattgbessing.com, he guides new and experienced writers in crafting more effective, expressive, and striking work. During the day, he works at Star Academy in San Rafael, teaching reading and comprehension skills to students with learning differences in elementary through high school. He lives in Santa Rosa, CA with his wonderful fiance and co-creator, Sarah Laugtug.