Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Schedules, Punishment and Reward

It's been a challenge to find time to do writing lately. Everyone has trouble with this, sometimes occasionally, sometimes on a day-to-day basis. The key for me has been habit. I've gotten to the stage where if I don't write, especially in the morning, the whole day feels off until I manage to get onto a keyboard and get some work done. This is a good thing. When that sense isn't there, it would be that much easier to let days or even weeks go by without writing a word.

To develop that sense, I had to write daily for quite a while. Some people use reward (can have a chocolate after 1000 words) and punishment (can't have any chocolate for a month unless they write 500 words a day for a week) systems, others do Nanowrimo with an intent to just keep going at the end of the month. Some function on a deadline system. They find deadlines to meet, either ones they create or ones they discover (such as contests or submission deadlines for anthologies or magazines with submission windows) and then pace themselves accordingly. Some folks have real success with schedules. They get up early or write late after everyone's gone to bed, or type while the baby is taking an afternoon nap.

Whatever the system, it has to reward consistency, and not beat you up so much emotionally that writing becomes associated with pain.

Pick something, or several somethings, and if it helps make a formal statement of some sort. It's like the success self-talk that some people engage in. You can just look in the mirror and say, "I'm a writer, and I will write everyday," when you brush your teeth. It works for some people really well. Some folks write contracts with themselves and put them up on the fridge. Others join online writing groups or blog about their word counts to keep themselves 'honest.'
For me, that sinking feeling keeps me writing pretty steadily. Yes, I garden, and do housework, and paint, and do stuff with my family. We watch movies in the evening during and after dinner. Yesterday, the only time I set aside for writing was before our evening movie, and so today I'm putting more effort into a full day of dreaming on the page. I'll get back into the swing of full-time writing again soon. When? For all I know, today may have been the first of a long string of such days. But to make sure, I'm going to be getting up early and writing all this week. Our days have gotten too busy. This is something I believe will ensure success. It's worked for me in the past.

BTW, the most evil punishment system I've heard of was this: a writer said he'd write a chapter a month, and if he missed a month, he'd donate money (I think it was $100) to a political fund that he found particularly repugnant to his values.

He only missed once.

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