Not a writing day goes by that I don’t give myself a series of incentives to get my work done. Whether it’s hitting my daily word count when drafting up a new book or inputting my writing group’s comments from previous chapters, I need a golden carrot dangling from a string to keep me productive.
The reward doesn’t need to be much. It’s not like I promise myself a new book every time I finish a chapter (although that would definitely make me write faster). My rewards are on a much smaller scale. If I input comments from a writer in my critique group, I can check my email. If I write another two hundred words, I can look up the latest online news.
Oddly enough, I didn’t develop my reward system strictly because I was having trouble writing one day and needed a new way to get started. Instead, the system came about when I noticed how much time I wasted surfing the internet. I found myself thinking, “Oh no, it’s been at least ten minutes since I checked my email. Surely someone’s written to me since then.” Before I could click my Inbox, I stopped and asked myself if I really needed to check it right then. Surely there was a better way to spend my time. That’s when I told myself I had to polish up three more pages of the chapter I was working on, and then I could see what urgent messages waited for me. Once I checked my email, I felt the urge to wander over to yahoo.com, just for a second, to see how the
stock market was performing that day. Before I let myself do that, I decided I needed to edit another three pages.
And so it began. Every time I feel the pull of the World Wide Web, I give myself a writing assignment to complete before I’m allowed to read the latest blog or online advice column. While I still waste some time online, I’m also more focused when I’m actually doing work and seem to get more done. I’ll keep working in this fashion until it’s no longer productive.
But you’ll have to excuse me. Now that I’ve finished writing my blog, I get to check my email.