Achieve Your Writing Dreams: Unleashing the Power of Motivation, Celebration, and Rewards

Achieve Your Writing Dreams: Unleashing the Power of Motivation, Celebration, and Rewards

Anyone who has written a book–or even attempted to write a book–knows the struggle it can be to maintain motivation throughout the entire project. This is true not just for writing but for any task that requires sustained effort over time to complete it, whether that is studying for an exam, learning a musical instrument, or mastering another language. Does giving yourself little rewards along the way provide incentive or wear away at motivation? In this blog, I will share my experience as it relates to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, rewards, and celebration.

Are rewards for writing a good idea?

At different points in my writing career, rewards have played a huge role. To convince myself to hit a certain word count by the end of the week, for example, when writing Pride, Prejudice, & Turkish Delight, I wrote down on a piece of paper that I could place the Book Outlet order that had been sitting in my online cart if I hit that word count. It’s no surprise to me (and likely not to you either, because book buying is probably a favorite hobby of most people reading this) that I met that goal, ordered the books, and kept moving forward with the project.

That goal and the reward that supported it helped me immensely during the messy middle of my first full-length writing project. In order to prove to myself that I could make it all the way to “The End,” I gave myself some extra incentives, and it worked. The goals I was setting at that time were reasonable for my writing speed, and that helped. Even when I didn’t feel like writing, that little extra motivation gave me a nice push.

However, the relationship I’ve had with rewards since has been a bit trickier. At the end of 2022, I came up with the “great” idea of purchasing advent calendars (in particular, ones full of fun jewelry–nothing perishable, for sure!) to use as word count goals at regular intervals. Every time I completed another 10k words, I got to open a piece of jewelry.

This worked for a while, and I was having fun with it. The problem, however, came later. Perhaps it was because my word count goals were higher than they had been that first time around. Perhaps it was because of the surplus of reward items available to me. Perhaps it was because the sustained effort required to hit that goal meant I needed to achieve machine-like levels of productivity. Whatever the case, I ended up discontinuing the project, opting instead to open the next item when I felt like I needed a little boost, rather than when I had done something to “earn” it.

A couple of things to note here: the advent calendar from Awe Inspired was an absolute win, and even if I never repeat this experiment, it’ll be at the top of my holiday wishlist. And, more importantly, I believe that my relationship with productivity (and particularly with the intrinsic motivation required to achieve it) has improved since letting go of this reward system.

Studies have shown that intrinsic motivation can suffer at the introduction of external rewards. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? If you previously did something just for the joy of it, but you were suddenly offered money or a prize (or even a cube of sugar or cheese, as I’m sure many lab rats have been), would you ever want to do it for “free” again?

That doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve some nice little gifties to reward yourself for completing your writing goals. In fact, I’m just suggesting a different way of looking at them.

Celebrate the milestones

No completed draft and certainly no book launch should go un-celebrated. Celebrating our accomplishments, whether big or small, is important. We work hard to finish a draft and to launch a finished book into the world, and the least we can do is enjoy an evening spent eating a meal that we didn’t cook ourselves. I’m a big believer in acknowledging these milestones. And you can do it by spending a little bit of money on yourself or for free.

Ideas for rewards of your own

Only you know what rewards are really going to feel like rewards to you. If you hate getting sand on your toes, then a day at the beach is probably not going to feel like much of a treat. Here’s a brain dump of some reward ideas:

  • Toss your favorite easy foods in a bag, head outside, and have a picnic
  • Go out to dinner at a new restaurant or an old favorite
  • Treat yourself to a book shopping spree - it could be secondhand (if you don’t have a favorite used bookstore, Better World Books and Thrift Books are great options!), Book Outlet, a library sale, or wandering the aisles of your local independent bookstore
  • Something to commemorate the launch - a tattoo, a bracelet, a new notebook
  • Take a day off to do something just for fun, either by yourself or with someone who’s going to bring only fun and no drama
  • Treat yourself - a nice bubble bath, a massage, some nice lotion to pamper your hands and wrists for all the work they do when you’re writing

Achieve Your Writing Dreams: Unleashing the Power of Motivation, Celebration, and Rewards

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