When you work full-time and want to write full-time, what’s the solution to not enough hours in a day? Ice cream. Extreme Moose Tracks, to be exact. Okay, so maybe that’s not actually a solution, but it sure does taste good. And what better reward for reaching a goal than a bowl full of cold, creamy, chocolate goodness? I hear all you health-conscious people out there listing much healthier rewards than ice cream. Trust me, most of the time my reward is much more along the lines of reading for the fun of it, a little extra time in the sunshine, playing on that website that I never have time for…you get the idea.
The point of rewards? Motivation, pure and simple. Yes, setting goals is a great way to get work done, but what happens when you get bogged down with goals and lose the excitement of writing the rest of that chapter or revising that troublesome scene? With something to motivate you to achieve whatever goal you’ve set, you quit working then spend the next week lamenting the time you wasted playing Minesweeper instead of working on your writing. This is where rewards come in. Set small milestones to reach the big goal, and reward yourself as you reach those milestones. Keep the milestones and the rewards reasonable. No going out to the trendiest restaurant because you rewrote two sentences. That’s not how it works. Set a goal of, say, revising six pages. When you reach that goal, reward yourself with ten minutes of playing with your kid’s Wii. Obviously, the goals and rewards will vary with each person, but the important thing is to have them.
Why do we set goals in the first place? To have a plan of action. If you’ve ever completed a 300+ page novel and thought about revising it, you know how intimidating that can be. Setting a goal of revising five to ten pages a day breaks it down into manageable chunks that leave you excited to get to work. And when that excitement fades is where the reward system comes in. Not only are you working toward your bigger goal of revising the entire manuscript, you’re working toward a smaller goal that will give you a much more immediate reward. The sense of accomplishment when you see that revised manuscript is amazing, but sometimes it takes a few little tangible rewards along the way to get to that one-of-a-kind feeling.
So, set your goals, set your rewards, and get to work. This is an honor system, so no cheating. Good luck and happy writing!