Reward (n.) 1. Something given in return for good or, sometimes, evil or for service or merit 2. Money offered, as for the capture of a criminal, the return of something lost 3. Compensation, profit, return
Many of us writers think the ultimate reward is becoming a New York Times best-selling author who outsells J.K. Rowling and James Patterson put together. Or, if we’re more literarily oriented, we aspire to a National Book Award and an Oscar in the same year (because, of course, our literary book was made into a movie directed by James Ivory and starring Emma Thompson and Daniel Day Lewis). Even the most optimistic of us, however, have to admit that those rewards are not likely getting bestowed on us five minutes (or even five years) after we start writing. So how do we reward ourselves in the interim?
The longer I’m in this writing/publishing business, the more convinced I am that rewarding ourselves for the accomplishment of milestones along the way is critical. Rewards give us a sense of pride in what we’ve done and motivate us. You can’t wait until you finish a manuscript, or land an agent, or get a three-book contract to reward yourself (although those amazing and fantabulous accomplishments deserve huge rewards). How about rewarding yourself for reaching your writing goal for the month (whether that’s 10,000 words, the re-write of your ending scene, or an in-depth interview with your protagonist)? Or, consider rewarding yourself for the accomplishment of a writing-related task you hate: sending out another ten queries, setting up a Facebook page/blog/Twitter account to promote your book, pitching your WIP to an agent or editor at a conference, conducting a difficult interview. We too often dismiss these sorts of accomplishments, shrug them off, and get onto the next task, when we really deserve a “Way to go!” for tackling them.
All of which begs the question of what makes an appropriate reward. Clearly, you’re not going to hand yourself a lovely certificate or plaque, as many traditional workplaces do. I struggle with this question because my go-to awards for myself tend to a) be ingestible (and fattening), b)cost money, or c) both of the above. (I am especially sensitive to the question because I have two tweenage daughters and I hate to set them up for a life-time of weight issues by celebrating their successes with food: National Junior Honor Society induction—let’s get a sundae!
Volleyball team MVP—let’s have some chocolate cake! Won the talent contest—Cinnabon here we come!) So, I offer a list of some of the non-edible, not-too-expensive rewards I bestow on myself:
Read a non-writing-related magazine (I like More and InStyle) without once feeling guilty;Obviously, rewards are very personal—what tickles my fancy might make you retch and I might rather get a root canal than “reward” myself with an activity or item you find wonderful. The point is to reward yourself in a meaningful way for the small milestones along the way, as well as the huge successes.
Give yourself a manicure or pedicure with a fun new color (my current fave is a pale orange called Candy Corn);
Call a friend and chat for half an hour without once mentioning writing or publishing;
Go for an hour-long walk or hike (I realize this might be a penance and not a reward for some, but I like working out);
Go to the gym/health club and do nothing except sit in the hot tub,steam room, or sauna;
Play with your pet;
Spend an hour enjoying a non-writing-related hobby;
Do something your kid wants to do and really throw yourself into it, whether it’s playing Littlest Pet Shop, doing soccer drills, or shopping at Claire’s (gag me);
Buy a new kind of tea/coffee or a new variety of wine/beer and give it a try, maybe something a tad pricier than your usual.
I’d love to hear how you reward yourselves (or how you reward your kids’ accomplishments) and will send a signed copy of Tressed to Kill to one commenter. Thanks very much to the Stiletto Gang for having me on the blog today!