Reward yourself for writing

In my Writer’s Circle, one of the things members commonly bring up as a question is how to reward themselves for meeting their writing goals.

We have a list of questions we answer on our site, once we’ve completed our writing for the day (or not, as the case may be). This is one of the stickiest questions for many of us:

  • How will you acknowledge or celebrate what you’ve accomplished today?

The question tends to trigger a lot of resistance and debate and discussion. Sometimes writers even avoid answering it or fulfilling it. I know it’s a hard one for me to remember too!

But here’s the thing, it’s incredibly important to both celebrate and acknowledge the work you do as a writer both on an ongoing daily basis and at the end of a significant project phase, like finishing a first draft or a rewrite. 

Here’s why:

  1. You’ve fought resistance to show up, put your butt in your seat, and do the writing. As small as that may seem from the outside, you know deep down that every day it is an accomplishment. We’re talking about a daily battle that you’re winning.
  2. By creating a positive association with your writing, you are more likely to show up and do it again the next day. Bottom line? It reinforces your writing habit.
  3. Writing is a long term endeavor. It’s all too easy to walk around feeling like you’ve never done enough when the draft isn’t finished. Stop that right now. Instead, celebrate what you have done. It’ll make it easier to keep going all the way through to the end.
  4. Too many writers significantly undervalue themselves and their writing, especially if the day’s writing session was particularly hard. Stop that too. Take the time to recognize the value and importance of what you’re doing. It’s important to you, right? For most of us, writing is a true calling. If that isn’t important to feed, honor, and sustain, I don’t know what is.

Ideas for rewards

Here are some super simple ideas to get you started with rewards, celebrations, and acknowledgments:

  • Do a happy dance.
  • Dance to music for a minute.
  • Shout, “I did it!”
  • Throw your fists up in the air and say, “YES!”
  • Say, “I declare myself satisfied!”
  • Hug yourself.
  • Pat yourself on the back.
  • Play an inspiring song.
  • Make yourself a cup of tea.
  • Take a moment to stretch.
  • Stand in the sunshine for a moment, look at the sky and appreciate the world and the gift of writing.
  • Do the things you’d normally be doing while procrastinating about your writing (like checking in on Facebook or Twitter, or playing games on your iPad).
  • Tell your writing community about your progress and be proud of yourself (the Writer’s Circle is a great place to do this).

You might also like this slideshow from B.J. Fogg on “Ways To Celebrate Tiny Successes”. (The slideshow has the line, “Hey now, you’re a rock star,” as one idea for a celebration. Love it! That’s from “All Star” by Smashmouth)

Two tips for getting the most out of rewards

  • Tip #1: Fogg recommends celebrating within a second of completing the task as being critical for reinforcing small successes. So even if you give yourself a bigger reward at the end of the day’s work, do mini-celebrations each time you hit a milestone (e.g. a page done, a hour of writing, 15 minutes of writing, whatever you’re aiming for). I have a sound effect for a cheering crowd set up on my iPhone that goes off whenever I finish an hour-long writing sprint. It always reminds me to notice and acknowledge what I’ve accomplished.
  • Tip #2: Gina Hiatt, the founder of the system my Writer’s Circle runs on, also points out the importance of not “pre-celebrating”. Pre-celebrating means doing something fun — celebrating or rewarding yourself — BEFORE you do the writing. That doesn’t work, because it only perpetuates procrastination AND triggers a guilty conscience. The whole idea here is to eliminate your guilt and anxiety around your writing.

But what about the major milestones?

What happens when you finish your draft, put the final polish on your rewrite, turn in your script to a contest, or your box of books arrives in the mail — in other words, hit a major writing milestone?

Please — and you may take this as a request from your writing coach if you like — REALLY celebrate!

Do something like this:

  • Take yourself out to a fantastic lunch or dinner.
  • Go to the spa for the day.
  • Take a day off and watch movies and eat your favorite foods.
  • Open a bottle of something yummy.
  • Tell your friends.
  • Have a party!

This is a MAJOR accomplishment and deserves to be celebrated.

Particularly if you’re someone who tends to undervalue and underrate and always have more to do and feel like you have to move on to the next thing, STOP, and congratulate yourself on finishing.

Then dive back in the next day. :)

Your turn

What do you do to reward yourself for writing? Tell us in the comments.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
 

 

Comments

  1. I love rewarding myself for a job well done! My rewards can range from food and a nice a glass of wine to taking the rest of the day off – of course it’s usually 4pm by that point but that’s alright!

    For me, at the moment, writing is actually my reward. I have spent a lifetime playing the victim role that life never seemed to hand me the opportunity to write. Through many of years of reading, research and self realization I finally took action and have been transcended from victim to victor. All my life I have been a prisoner in her jail cell with the door wide open…I finally walked out. I am facing my fears and slowly becoming a real life writer! 

    Jenna, I want to thank you. Even though I have not been involved in your groups or blogs (from lack of self confidence), I read your posts and they are part of the reason I finally stepped out of my own prison. You have been extremely inspiring. As I start my new adventure in writing and entrepreneurship I only hope that I can inspire others the same way. Thank you again.

    • How brilliant that you’re writing now! And I love your ideas for rewards. I’ve had to be careful about rewarding myself with food :) but it is nice to have a treat.

      It often feels to me like writing is my reward too – and I still find a small way to celebrate too. It feels good.

      I’m SO GLAD to hear that my posts are part of what has inspired you to take action with writing and business. I wish you all the best! You’re more than welcome to join my groups at any time!

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