Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Finish That Novel NOW!: Why Carrot & Stick Just Might Be the Way to Writing "THE END"
Blake Boles is the author of Self-Directed Learning and is a strong believer in building kids who direct their own learning. I was fascinated by his discussion on motivation which kept me thinking not only of my children's education but of my writing life.
Boles makes a strong and unsurprising case for internal motivation. He cited some fascinating current volumes which introduced me to some new thoughts on "flow" and "drive". I will be exploring how we might channel these concepts to enhance our writing life in future blog posts.
Dan Pink's monumental study on Drive suggests that these are the most important elements of motivation:
1) Autonomy – the desire to self-direct our own lives.
2) Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
3) Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
In future posts I would like to explore all three of these and how we can utilize them specifically as writers. But first I would like to tackle a method Pink claims is outdated.
Carrot and stick: Let's face it we are motivated by rewards and punishments. Time-outs on the mat and stickers were the methods our Kindergarten teachers used to keep us in line and we haven't changed much in some ways.
If you're having trouble reaching a goal may I suggest you need two simple components:
This could be the adult stick method. Fear of embarassment, fear of failure, fear of other's opinions of us loom large in our minds.
Alleycat pal Casey and my own husband can receive a large credit for helping me finish my first novel. If you don't have a real-life pal to hold your feet to the fire, there are great Facebook groups such as #1kanhour where you can find virtual buddies to write at the same time as you.
External deadlines are another method of accountability. We can talk about internal deadlines later, but I'm choosing to focus on the "carrot and stick" method today. Each time I receive a book from Library Journal there is a stamped sheet inside the cover with my review due date. Emails with article assignments include the same. These provide calendar motivation though it may seem simplistic.
Another form of self-accountability involves temporarily removing something else from your life in order to allow time for writing. The easiest thing to remove in this stage of my life is sleep which is why I often find myself writing during the nighttime hours. That being said, removing facebook or a hobby from your life would increase your writing time.
Mercenary or not, I don't have a lot of extra cash for writing pursuits so I am motivated by payment. Since I try to use my writing money for further resources to grow me that check is even more motivating.
The last several times I've attempted to write a novel, I have ended between 10,000 and 20,000 words. Because of the stop-go flow of my life right now, nonfiction seems to work for me as it is easier to compartmentalize while still maintaining unity in the whole work. Yet to increase my word count my husband came to the rescue again.
You are blessed if you have a cheerleader in your corner. In this case my husband is my biggest cheerleader. He knows I am happiest when I can pursue my dreams so he has offered up a motivator. He has offered me the choice to purchase a covered bookcase I've been coveting for years or to attend SHE WRITES conference when I complete my book.
He knows me and my style of motivation as a ticket to ACFW helped me complete my first novel.
You can also utilize rewards and removals for short-term goals. I will take the afternoon to read a favorite book when I reach my word count for the week. When I hit 10,000 words I will splurge on a white chocolate mocha. I will DVR Castle and there will be no new episodes until I send my proposal out.
Have you ever utilized a carrot and stick policy in order to complete a project?
Julia Reffner is also a contributor at Wonderfully Woven and Library Journal magazine.