Friday, November 12, 2010

Rewards & Positive Reinforcement--Even When You Don't Succeed

I didn't grow up in a household where there were a lot of rewards for good behavior. And we sure weren't rewarded for trying to be good either. So I came to this little idea of rewarding myself for not succeeding very slowly.

Apparently cleaning bathrooms after finishing a major project is not considered a reward. This is how well-trained I was not to get something good even when I deserved it for all my hard work.

But that is just stinky. Literally. Who wants to clean house after they've finished a paper, written a book, painted a picture, applied for graduate school, graduated from college, and the list goes on. I've learned to give myself breaks, but I had to teach myself to give myself rewards.

Kelly L. Stone articulated that precept for me at the GRWA Moonlight & Magnolias Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. She gave me a few new ideas about how to reward myself while I am working toward a goal. I came home from the conference and implemented one. A successful author pays herself a quarter every time she meets her word count for the day. I decided to make a Reward Jar and got $20 in quarters to fill it.

Note: It'll take a LOT of those rolls to fill my cutesy decorated tin can!

Any rate, I modified the reward system to include meeting every goal I set for the day as a writer (I might add exercise to that because I have been slacking off--which is a post for another day). So if my goal was to get a submission ready, a contest entry ready, a chapter read in my media book by Kristen Lamb, or my homework completed in the Alexandra Sokoloff online workshop I'm taking then I drop a quarter into the jar every time I meet the goal.

Another thing I've done is reward myself for having tried and failed. As a writer I must put myself out there all the time with query letters, sending out partials, full manuscripts and entering contests. I am not really into the administrative end of this business, so it is like poking a fork into my eyeball to do these things. I'd rather write my stories or blog than do it. Seriously. But the work must be done. The possibility of rejections must be faced.

So here's how I cope. First, I get a quarter for completing the task. Then I devised a system for rewarding myself if I didn't get the answer I wanted (BIG YES or YOU FINALED!!). I pay myself for not getting those answers. Yup. Now these numbers can be adjusted to be coins, less money, more money, Hershey's kisses--you get the picture.

Here's my payment scale:

Rejected Query? $1
Rejected Partial? $5
Rejected Full? $20
Didn't Final in a Contest? $5

So last week I didn't final in a contest. BOO. That stinks. I was down in the Personal Pity Party dumps. But then I remembered I got to pay myself $5 for not finaling. That brought a smile to my face. Yay! I put all the money I pay myself into a pretty box on a shelf in my office. It's up to you where you put your money (or Hershey's kisses). I am saving the quarters till I have too many to count, rolling them and putting them in the box as well.

What am I saving this money for? Anything to do with my writing--nice dress for an awards ceremony, shoes, dinner with writing friends, etc.

Now if you're not a writer and you're pursuing another goal or dream, you can modify this little reward system to suit your dream's not-so-happy days. For instance, if you are trying to get into university you can pay yourself for every application you send (a quarter cause those apps are expensive), for every study session you take for the SAT/ACT, for every interview you go on, for every college you tour, and for every good grade (say a B or better).

But hey? What if the college doesn't accept you? What will you pay yourself for trying so you'll try again?

See? This system takes the sting out of not getting what you want and gives you motivation to try again.

Try it. In fact, give yourself a quarter for reading this blog today!

Fabulous Friday Blog Roll

This week I am celebrating group blogs I reward myself with after I meet my writing goals.

1. Romance Magicians: I'm a part of the Southern Magic blog and love to read their stories.
2. Seekerville: Really inspirational group of authors.
3. Petits Fours & Tamales: Great book reviews, charity events, and more inspiration for me.
4. The Blood Red Pencil: To feed my writing brain with good info.
5. The Writing Playground: Heart of Dixie authors with fun posts.


Gwen Hernandez said...

It can be hard to stay motivated when you're not getting paid to write, so little rewards like this are a great idea.

I'm not so organized about it, but I use things like Twitter, blogs, and reading from my TBR pile as rewards for meeting my goals.

You're doing a great job this week, BTW. Good luck with the full!

Christine said...

Thanks Gwen. I'm finished. I sent you the prelude to the scene that you felt "cheated" by and I've been through the entire doc one more time. Printing it out and sending it TODAY!

Whew. It takes a village and a bottle of wine to get through these pushes.

Good luck with the NaNoWriMo!

Tami Brothers said...

This is a great idea!!! I like the Hershey Kisses idea (of course the money, too). I'll have to give it a try.

Thanks for mentioning the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog. We love having such great followers!


Christine said...

Hi Tami: I know -- Hershey's kisses work for me. I decided to keep buying back my quarters. At the end of the week I count out five bucks worth and pull them out of my jar. I put $5 bill in my wooden box. Works great. I'm gonna be loaded by the end of the year!

Lisa Dunick said...

I love the idea of paying yourself even when you don't succeed...although, it would be really great if I could get someone else to pay me :O)

Christine said...

Hi LIsa: It would be super nice to get paid for our writing!! But in the meantime, why not find a way to reward yourself for working so hard toward that goal? Since I posted this, I've saved enough money for my hotel room in NYC for the RWA National Conference. That's a great feeling (and a super reward!)