Monday, September 10, 2007

Will Write for Bubble Bath

On another blog recently, I read about how a writer punished herself for not completing her daily word quota. She didn't allow herself to do something she really enjoyed and had looked forward to all week. Sometimes people feel that the way to writing success is to force themselves to write and to punish themselves if they don't. If that worked, we wouldn't have a thing to worry about. Most of us are pretty good at being mean to ourselves for not producing. But it doesn't work, as you may have noticed. If you took psychology in college, you may remember that as a behavior reinforcer, reward is many times more powerful than punishment. This holds for teaching a pigeon to press a lever right on up to training yourself to complete a novel. I advocate being kind to yourself every time you write. Take bubble baths and watch movies you love. Give yourself treats. Make a list of nice things you can have or do for yourself for writing and reward yourself frequently. Develop an association between writing and pleasure, instead of between not writing and deprivation. Nurture and encourage the writer in you.

And another thing. Pushing yourself hard isn't the way to get out your best material. Sometimes in classes, I use the metaphor of trying to catch a cat. If you're trying to grab a cat, it doesn't help to run fast and grab hard. The cat will always be able to scoot faster and jump higher than you can. Instead, you've got to sit quietly and let the cat come to you. When it jumps into your lap, make it feel welcome and give it affection. It's the same with writing. Be there every day for it and love it (and yourself) when it comes.


Cindy said...

Sara I love this. I finished my writing quota early this morning, and have a class to teach in a couple of hours. Normally, I'd be working away until class, but I think I'll reward myself for the revision pages I've piled up this past week instead.

Bonnie said...

Excellent lesson. The analogy of sitting quietly waiting for the cat is just perfect. When I am frenzied, nothing goes right, but when I am calm and peaceful, everything seems to fall into place.
There is a note on my desk that says, "Good Advice - 1. Start and 2. Keep going. Now I will add another note that says, "Sit quietly and wait for the cat."