When people imagine what writers do — even what I imagine I do, when I’m between manuscripts — is sit at the keyboard, fingers flying and words magically pouring out like rainbows from a unicorn. We may occasionally steeple our fingers like Mr Burns as we contemplate some fresh torture, or gloat after we execute a particularly tricky or torturous scene.
But that hasn’t generally been my experience. In fact, sometimes writing can be downright painful. (Certainly Richard Castle must have felt that way, or he wouldn’t have procrastinated about writing to the point where he started pretending to be a detective. In fact, the animated gif above was the only one I could find where he was even in the same shot as a computer! Procrastination level = master.) Even when it’s not actively painful, writing can still be tedious.
Beck mentioned back in January that rewards are one of her strategies to get herself to write, and I use them to get my butt in the chair too. So here are some ideas you might consider as ways to reward yourself for good behaviour — whether that be writing 500 words, finishing a chapter, or finishing an entire novel.
Get a massage. Whether you’re a pen-and-paper drafter or a master of keyboard-fu, writing inevitably involves a lot of sitting, hunching and the occasional fist-to-forehead moment. All of that can wreak havoc on the old back and shoulders. A professional therapeutic massage can work wonders but, if you can’t afford that, why not beg, guilt or entice your significant other or a friend into giving you a shoulder rub?
Do that thing you like to do. Watch your favourite TV show. Go out to see a movie. Play that new computer game. (Or an old favourite — I’ve been playing a bit of Minecraft with my son.) The important thing here is that the reward isn’t too over the top relative to the achievement, because there can be a fine line between reward and procrastination. Don’t spend four weeks binge-watching TV after writing 100 words, or run off and join the police force for “inspiration”. Unless you want to, of course.
Buy yourself a present. What better way to celebrate writing the thing than by reading a thing? Buy a book (or five)! If you’re worried about reading fiction in your genre while you’re drafting, why not read something else? Even non-fiction? Or you could buy yourself some other treat: an awesome new t-shirt, comfy slippers, a charm for a bracelet, or a new DVD. (See my previous point for an awesome one-two combination: buy the DVD and then watch it. Now that’s booyah!)
Eat cake! Or chocolate. Ice cream. Bacon. Pizza. Nutella straight from the jar. Whatever floats your boat. The point is that it should be something you wouldn’t normally do. Or I suppose you could be healthy and go for a run, but I can’t really provide advice on that. 😉
My message here is basically this: do what you gotta do! Because the hard times are temporary and the end is totally worth it.