Coach’s Corner: Delayed Gratification

Welcome to Coach’s Corner where I offer some thoughts on the creative process and breaking through moments of self-doubt.

Delayed gratification

I don’t know about you, but I have developed a deep appreciation for online shopping. For the most-part, I buy books online. There are some pretty nifty Kickstarter projects to back too. I mean, who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail, and avoiding the mall at Christmas?

Except for the one teeny, tiny, major flaw: I have to wait.

I am probably one of the most impatient people in the world. If there is something I want, I like to be able to go into a store, pay for it, and walk out with it in my grubby little hands.

I know I’m not alone in my need for instant gratification. The industries of the world count on that need, and they feed it. It’s why Amazon now has Amazon Prime with next day delivery, and same-day delivery in some cities. The news is at our finger-tips 24/7. You like a song you hear on the radio? You can download it instantly from iTunes.

Being impatient, needing instant gratification, can make life difficult for writers. Any writing project, especially novels, can take a long time to write without having a complete and final product in our hands.

Impatience and need for instant gratification are frequently behind procrastination. The thought of sitting down at the computer when you have 75,000-90,000 words ahead of you, and that’s just the first draft, to be followed by months of editing, it can be incredibly daunting. We don’t want to do it. We’d rather do anything else but write because even if we get 1,000 words down, there is still so much more to go. So we clean the house to feel productive. We cook some meals and have some final products. We play a game because we see ourselves earning points and leveling up. We watch television because after a few hours, we’ve had several stories told to us, we’ve been entertained, and maybe we even learned something.

It isn’t easy to face writing day after day and having only incremental progress, but that is exactly what we have to do to be successful. So what do you do when you need that instant gratification?

Rather than depending on the final product of a complete novel or story, or feedback from readers — either constructive critique or fan love and praise — to be your reward, it is important to create other means of feeling accomplished. Here are a few you can try:

  1. Set a daily word-count. Reaching that goal is a successful day.
  2. Print out the scenes or the chapters as you complete them so you can see the stack of pages growing.
  3. Set a goal of how many days a week you are going to write. At the end of the week, if you stuck to your goal you’ve been successful.
  4. If you really need reader feedback, consider posting scenes and chapters to Wattpad or something similar to receive that feedback for a work in progress, keeping in mind that feedback may be critical.

I always recommend that my clients reward themselves for reaching their smaller goals. Small rewards for small goals. Bigger rewards for completing the actual novel. What type of reward is a small reward?

  1. Reach your daily word count? Allow yourself an episode of your favorite TV show, or read a chapter (or two) of a book.
  2. Finish a chapter? Allow yourself a trip to your local Staples or other favorite store for a small treat like a notebook or new pen.
  3. Meet your weekly writing goal? Meet a friend for coffee or go to a movie.

Find a reward that works for you, something that you want, something you will look forward to, so that you will want it again the next day or the next week. When you have those goals and rewards, writing each day becomes less arduous.

What will your goals be? How will you reward yourself?

2 Comments

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier September 9, 2016 at 10:42 am

    I think this is the most important lesson that NaNoWriMo has taught me, the importance of breaking down one big goal into smaller, more manageable ones. That and creating (and sticking to) a realistic schedule. For most of the year, I set aside an hour to work on a writing project every weekday- that increases to every day of the week during NaNoWriMo. And I do a pretty good job (albeit not a perfect one) sticking to it.

    Doing this has been so helpful, I’ve begun to think of ways that I can use it in other areas of my life. So instead of stressing out about cleaning my apartment, I break it down room by room.

    Reply
    • sherrypeters September 9, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Exactly! And be satisfied with those increments.

      Reply

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