One of my resolutions this year is to celebrate little and often. Like other writers I need to motivate myself for the long slog and rewards make a big difference. So, what does it mean to treat ourselves and how does it keep us going?
The rewards of writing
Writing is tough – it’s a long process with very few rewards. In many ways it’s a denial of rewards. Shall I watch some telly or go to the pub with my friends or sit alone and stare at a blank screen – tonight and every night for months while I pour my heart and soul onto the page? And when I’ve finished my passion project I get to endure rejection and indifference from agents, publishers and readers.
If we waited until our work was published or produced there’d be little joy in writing. I think it’s essential we celebrate along the way and my aim is little and often. I’ve come up with four levels of celebration.
- The gift is in itself – when the act brings its own rewards.
- Treats – treating yourself to some simple pleasure.
- Milestones – acknowledging an achievement on the way to something larger.
- Celebrations – when a large goal or dream has been achieved.
Why rewards matter
Rewards are important to keep us going. Psychologist BF Skinner investigated their role in helping develop new habits. Giving ourselves treats along the way is a form of positive reinforcement, which motivates us to continue. Without something nice and treaty we become “bored, discouraged and depressed”.
I’m going to explore rewards over the coming posts, looking at the four types of reward. I’ll talk to different writers about how they celebrate and what it means to them. In the meantime, here are a few tips for setting rewards.
- Identify a reward when you set yourself a goal, it’ll give you something to aim for.
- There’s no such thing as a universal reward – one person’s treat is another’s trick – think about what will motivate you.
- The reward should be appropriate for the goal – a small goal should have a tiny treat whereas achieving a large goal deserves something more celebratory.
- However, don’t set your reward too big because your goal becomes about achieving the reward rather than what you need to do to get there.
- Celebrate the process, every day you write is an achievement so ensure you get lots of inexpensive treats along the way.