The Writer’s Reward by Catharine Bramkamp
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “ The Writer’s Reward.” Enjoy!
During one of our Blab conversations, a listener, Angela, asked Beth and I what do we do to reward ourselves for writing.
My first instinct was to deliver one of those obvious, pandering answers, like writing is its own reward, but that answer is not only too obvious and trite, it’s also false.
We love writing. We are passionate about writing. But that does not mean we like writing. Some days are difficult; the work is hard, but necessary. Some days are devoted to the second draft, or the third. This writing is devoted to wresting with individual sentences, trying to make sense of what poured out of your heart and mind, but didn’t quite translate on the page.
This work is difficult.
And I believe that yes, you need some kind of reward system to keep you at your desk and focused on the project at hand, because this stage of writing is not, really, its own reward.
Deadlines are motivating of course. And a deadline can help start the project and encourage you to stay with the project, but rewards in-between can be truly helpful.
So aside from rewarding yourself with a trip to Hawaii once the manuscript is finished, here are some ideas to help motivate you through the slog that is the second, third and fourth drafts of your book:
Rewards are more effective if they are not computer based.
Rewards are effective if they are simple.
Set a reasonable goal, even a very low goal. Sometimes a huge goal is as frustrating as considering your huge project. Break it down.
After I edit 500 words I will reward myself with:
- A short walk.
- A snack either a cookie or an apple depending on your diet.
- My favorite YouTube video. (You know the one. I won’t judge.)
- Starbucks coffee.
After writing and editing 1,000 words I will reward myself with:
- An inexpensive book at a book store.
- Inexpensive writing material at a stationery store or Office Depot
- An hour reading a fun book. Not an important book, or an industry based book, a fun book by an author who is doing his or her job particularly well.
- A trip to the local museum.
- A walk through a local art gallery.
- A trip to the farmer’s market either to just look or to buy something fresh for lunch.
- A photo walk with the goal of photographing beautiful items, or silly items, or just to take photos your feet because they are outside.
- Lunch out at a trendy local restaurant. (Bring that fun book you started to read.)
- Dessert from a popular bakery.
- Three dollars’ worth of fun items from a dollar store.
After finishing one of the many draft versions of the book, I will reward myself with:
- A massage.
- A day at a local spa.
- A long afternoon visit with an old friend.
- A hike in the woods.
- A day trip shopping at cool consignment stores.
- A weekend at the beach.
- A class in another creative outlet — painting, drawing, sculpture, throwing pots.
- Weekend wine tasting.
I did not mention alcohol because it may not be appropriate and I have learned to avoid that cycle — write, drink, intend to write, have another drink. Ahh, forget about writing, where’s the bourbon?
All the stories we read about — wild drunken nights, all day writing the great American novel, are not really true. A massage will do more for you than three glasses of wine.
Tailor your reward to the effort rather than the product.
Sometimes 500 words come after only excruciating effort, and sometimes it’s easy to bang out 3,000 in an afternoon.
Stick with the system.
If you promise to wear a silly hat and run through the house waving sparklers (or scissors, either is equally festive), then do it. The promises you make to yourself are the most important to keep. The more often you reward yourself, the more motivated you will become: positive reinforcement. The worst thing you can do is skip a reward in favor of more work. Don’t do it. Don’t disappoint yourself. It’s a bad habit and it won’t help.
Be kind to yourself, and keep writing. I have a couple of sparklers waiting.
Make your own Writer’s Reward!
Share what how you reward yourself in the comments. Thanks!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catharine Bramkamp is the co-producer of Newbie Writers Podcast that focuses on newer writers and their concerns. She is a successful writing coach, Chief Storytelling Officer, and author of a dozen books including the Real Estate Diva Mysteries series, and The Future Girls series. She holds two degrees in English, and is an adjunct university professor. After fracturing her wrist, she has figured out there is very little she is able to do with one hand tied behind her back.
Thanks for reminding us to reward ourselves, Catharine. The other day I went to buy pens before my writing session, as a pre-reward. The store didn’t have the ones I wanted so I ordered a box online! It will be an after-writing reward after all!