Rewards for Writing

These days writing is its own reward for me. Even if it hasn’t been a fabulous writing day—if I’ve felt a bit stiff, or the words have been slow to find their way to the page—I feel good about having written because I’ve honored the commitment I made to myself some time ago: to write on a regular basis. “You did it again,” I half congratulate myself when I’ve finished writing. And once I’ve said this, I feel liberated for the rest of the day. I’ve accomplished the one thing most important to me for my well being, and anything else I do that day is gravy.

As well, I feel energized after I’ve written. Words have arrived on the page from a place that remains mysterious to me. Whether that place resides in my heart or my head—or even in the heavens above—each time I write, I feel as if I’ve received a gift. Not an extra scarf or potholder, but an image or a thought that registers as important to me. Also, I’ve usually bumped into an idea or two I didn’t know I had.

I haven’t always felt this way. For years, writing was a hand-wringing affair for me, accompanied by self criticism about the writing itself: That’s not at all the right word. That sentence is awkward. Nobody will understand what you’re saying. Why are you so slow? Why can’t you write as well as xyz?

While I was working on overcoming my writing block and inhibitions, I learned to write for short periods of time, and to give myself rewards for having written. Small rewards. Just a little something to help me associate writing with a positive outcome. What I learned is that if the process felt arduous, rewarding myself once I’d finished was a bit like alchemy. What had once felt difficult, now shined like gold.

Simply thinking about offering yourself a small reward for having written puts you ahead of the game. Creating a list of possible rewards, makes the prospect of writing a bit brighter. And it’s fun to ask yourself what you’d most enjoy doing once you’ve finished writing.

How about listening to your favorite music for 15 minutes? Taking a walk around the block? Reading? Making one phone call? Playing with your adorable puppy? Straightening a dresser drawer?

It really doesn’t matter what you decide to reward yourself with. It only matters that this be something that gives you pleasure. Finding the perfect reward is a personal treasure hunt. And you might find that your choice shifts over time. Or that you want to alternate rewards during the week.

One of the writers I’m working with loves beautiful stickers. She decided that she’d give herself a sticker for every 15 minutes she writes. Another writer, who felt isolated, now rewards herself by slipping out to her local café when she’s finished her writing each day. She’s been doing this for some weeks now, and has discovered a pleasant community to drink her latte with and chat.

From time to time, I still enjoy rewarding myself for having written. Even though the days of my block are far in the past, the memory of my struggles remains strong. On those days, I love to grab my camera and head to one of the photo-rich spots I’ve discovered not far from my home. Once there, I happily shoot away for 15 minutes, then jump back in the car and head home, more than ready to greet the rest of what lies ahead for that particular day.

Lichen, Joshua Tree

2 thoughts on “Rewards for Writing”

  • Taking a break with a reward is a good idea. I think that this raises the other side of the coin as well – not taking a break. Often if I am on a tear and can’t stop, I forget to eat or stretch. At the end of the day, I’ve only written. Not bad, but not enough variety. When I return to reread what I’ve written on that tear, there can be a lot of “too much words disease.” This is a tern from my sister when we both talk too much! It can happen with the writing too, I find. Cathartic for me, a bit tiresome for the reader. Set a timer and break away.
    Jane Anne, I love how you pack so much into your posts!

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