Writing–Rewarding Efforts

Swimming medals
Swimming medals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve read in more than one place that writers should reward themselves for the little accomplishments they have along the way of bigger successes. They should do that because writing is a long slog from first draft to publication and while you’re doing it, it feels like you’re doing it for nothing. You put in all of this work and in the end, you might not see a dime for it. Rewarding yourself during the process helps alleviate that hopeless feeling that tends to creep up when you’re not looking.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea. Eating some ice cream at the end of a first draft, drinking some wine after slogging through revisions, playing a video game after meeting the day’s word count, or going out with some friends after submitting that short story is great. It’s a nice motivator to get through the hard parts and it’s a nice release once you do. Whatever reward you come up with, good on ya. Whatever flips your skirt and rocks your boat.

I’ll just be over here wishing I could do the same thing.

I don’t reward myself. At all. Ever. Even on the rare occasion that a short story gets accepted somewhere, the most I do is pause for a fist pump and then get back to work.

Why?

I guess it’s because of the way I was raised. Yes, of all the things to blame on my parents, I blame not eating pizza after finishing a first draft of a novel. But it’s true. My parents didn’t believe in rewarding us kids for things we were supposed to do. I didn’t get an allowance for cleaning my room. I was supposed to do that. I didn’t get a trip to Dairy Queen for making good grades. I was supposed to do that. I remember when I was a kid finding out that my friends got paid a dollar amount for A’s and B’s. I asked my parents why I didn’t get paid like that.

I was supposed to do that.

So here I am, 32 years old, been writing most of my life, and while I approve of the idea of getting a treat for finishing a first draft or revisions or submitting or accomplishing anything, big or small, related to a writing career, I can’t bring myself to participate because…I’m supposed to do that.

I’m supposed to finish that first draft and finish those revisions and submit that story and do that research and this, that, and the other. It’s part of my job. I don’t get rewarded for supposed to’s.

I would imagine that my attitude won’t change much when (not if!) I get my first novel published.

Because as a writer, that’s what I’m supposed to do. And as I writer, I’m supposed to write another.

So, I’d better get on it.

There’s no time for me to celebrate supposed to’s.

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Writing–Writing Novels and Raking Leaves

My friend DaLette got hold of me at the end of October to offer me some work. She needed help clearing a massive amount of leaves from a massive yard. It was just going to be the two of us working. Two women, two rakes, and a leaf blower. And we only had two days to do it. It was all her schedule would allow.

The goal for the first day was to clear half of the front yard, the biggest chunk of the whole project. The second day, we’d do the rest of the front yard, the backyard, and the side yard.

Starting out, it looked overwhelming. DaLette started on one side of the half of the front yard with the leaf blower and I took the other side with a rake. DaLette had already been by the week before and cleared out the gardens (which were full again when we started) and I started moving those piles down to the street. I’d pile the leaves on a piece of plastic sheeting and then drag them down to the street and dump them for the city to pick up.

I cleared out the bulk of the leaves in the gardens again and raked up many of my own piles to drag down to the street while DaLette made her own piles with the leaf blower. When her piles got big enough, we switched places. She made piles on my side and I moved her piles to the street. It took six and a half hours, but we got that half of the front yard done.

The next day, we started in the backyard, piling up the leaves and moving them out of the little fenced-in area and into the front yard. From there, it was all piling it up and moving it to the street. By the time we got to the sparsely covered side yard, we were both tired and hurting, but it was the easiest part of the yard and it felt the sweetest.

It was during this epic raking exercise that I gave a lot of thought to Nanowrimo, specifically the process of it. Going in on November 1st, it looks like that yard did at the very beginning of the first day. 50,000 words is a huge task and in the beginning, it looks overwhelming.

When I was raking, I kept looking back at what I’d done to remind myself that I was getting somewhere. Word count updates are like that. It reminds me how much I’ve accomplished just in case I forget. Looking ahead, at the rest of the yard that needed to be raked and at the words that need to be written, sometimes it’s hard to remember that I am moving in the right direction.

Like climbing up a hill, eventually it gets to a point where there’s more leaf-free yard than leaf-covered yard. There are more words written than words needing to be written. And that’s when the second wind really kicks in. Sure you’re tired. You’re sore. You outright hurt.  The ideas are drying up. Your brain begs for mercy. Your fingers scream for a break. But you can see the end! It’s just right there! And you’re not going to stop until you cross that line. You’re not going to leave one leaf on the grass and you’re not leaving one word unwritten, not stopping short of that 50,000.

At the end of those two days, I’d made enough money to pay my cell bill for the month. At the end of Nanowrimo, I’ll have another manuscript first draft I might be able to revise and rewrite into something that could pay off in the future.

But, it’s not about the money (actually, the raking IS about the money, but I’m trying not to spoil a point here). It’s about the thrill of victory. It’s about the sense of accomplishment.

It’s about standing at the finishing line, looking back at the beginning, and say, “Yeah. I did that.”

Try not to feel invincible after that.