More specifically: what are the celebrations I give myself for achieving successes and milestones in writing?
Okay…so, first off…I write in the taproom of a brewery. One could (quite reasonably) argue that every single one of my writing sessions is a “celebration”. And that’s even before you get into the philosophical considerations of the mental and emotional rewards of writing…
Okay, okay, I freely admit it — I do use my “office” for a certain amount of…err…self-reward. And, no, that’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds. What it does mean is that I’m a very goal-oriented person in anything I do professionally.
I have a specific, concrete goal for each and every writing session. Now, it helps to keep in mind that I design my outlines, and my stories, based on “scenes”, and each scene is intended as a goal to be accomplished in one writing session. It doesn’t happen every time, but when I am successful in achieving that goal, I reward myself for achieving that day’s goal with a mini-celebration. I reward myself — at the least — with a beer and a quiet, internal little “Yeehaw!”
But it gets more complicated from there.
I think most writers are aware that some sessions — like some scenes, and some ideas — are just more “successful” than others. For those, something special is in order. For those times when I get done and I know that everything just clicked — for those times when I have that feeling that says “oh yeah, nailed it!” — a celebration, or at least a (ahem) self-reward, is definitely in order. Those are the times when I don’t reward myself with a beer. Nosiree, those are the times when the bottle of 14-year-old single-malt might just happen to come out…
The bottom line isn’t giving yourself a drink as a reward. Just as it isn’t any other form of self-indulgence. No, the bottom line is that you have to motivate yourself…and anyone who has spent more than five minutes managing in Corporate America knows that motivating involves not just the stick, but also the carrot.
Dangle yourself a carrot — allow yourself a reward for the small victories as much as for the large.
Sure, when you sign that five-book-deal with a major publisher and are preparing your acceptance speech for a major award, you reward yourself. Of course you do. And if you don’t? Well, disfunction is its own reward, I suppose.
But what about when you absolutely nail a scene?
Or, hell…what about when you finish a chapter?
Or you take a new direction with a character?
Yeah, “writing is its own reward,” you say. And I get it…I really do.
…but you have to give yourself those little extras — those perks — that tell your subconscious, “hey, this is worth doing!”
If you don’t reward yourself for the little victories, why would your subconscious believe that you’re going to do a damned thing for the big ones? Would you believe a boss that did that to you?
I know I wouldn’t.
If you’re like me, writing is who you are, far more than it is what you do…but that doesn’t mean you can treat yourself like shit. It doensn’t mean that you’re slave-labor. Quite the opposite in fact. It means you have to keep yourself motivated and working; it means that you have to reward yourself for the little victories as much as for the big.
That five-book-deal, by the way? That reward is set and waiting…and it involves a velvet couch, a bow-and-arrow, and a bunny-suit.
You don’t want to know.