The Reward System Works

Does the idea of writing 200 pages seem unsurmountable? Break the task into smaller tasks and reward yourself along the way. The reward system is part of the process of writing, and it works.

Reward Productivity; Alleviate Guilt

My message to you is that you can set modest goals along the way to your finished products. When you achieve any goal, give yourself a reward: a half hour of TV without guilt or a phone call to a friend after writing three pages.

Use the reward system not only to reward productivity in writing but to alleviate guilt if you think you should be doing something else — like earning a living. Unpack five boxes and write for an hour. Finish your taxes and write for an hour. You can’t wait until you’re totally caught up because we never get totally caught up.

I Suck My Last Thumb

I’m reminded of a lesson I learned around the reward system when my son David was seven-years old. The year before, we had bought him his first two-wheeler for his sixth birthday. It was a bright red bike that said “Team Murray” on the side and he loved it. He showed it off to all the neighbors.

The only trouble was, he never rode it, at least not after his first few falls. He just refused to try. He even attempted to convince me — and, hence, himself — that he didn’t want to ride his bike.

I remembered how I used to suck my thumb when I was around his age. My dad couldn’t get me to stop and he didn’t know what to do. Finally one night as he was tucking me into bed, he said he would buy me a baseball glove if I could go a week without sucking my thumb.

I never sucked my thumb again.

Of course, to this day I bite my nails.

David Falls and Gets Up

Anyhow, David was into Nintendo by this time so I promised him I would buy him any Nintendo game he wanted as soon as he learned how to ride his bike. He was riding it the next day.

Today, David is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and an acclaimed chef.

The reward system works.

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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. The complete book is available and ready to guide you here. For book coaching and editing help, email Ken at [email protected].  Subscribe to Ken’s blog here.