Establishing a Reward System: An IWSG Post

Good day, my writing/blogging friends.

It’s hard to believe we are entering a fourth of the new year. Where does the time go? Anyway, it’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. (Side note: I have to think of another way to introduce these posts. I enjoy writing them and I hope you guys enjoy reading them.)

Before I begin, I need to get something off my chest. I want to thank Alex Cavanaugh and the administrative team for allowing me to write these posts. I sometimes wonder if I am a source of encouragement to fellow writers. I know it’s hard to quantify levels of encouragement, unless you count the comments. And so far, I haven’t received any criticisms highlighting the opposite. So I guess I’m doing a good job. Whether I am or not, let me know in the comments. I want to read your input.

Now that I’ve cleared the air, let’s answer this month’s question:

How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal / finish a story?

I have to say this is probably one of the more difficult questions to answer. I’m not really one to “reward” myself when it comes to writing. I’ll give myself a pat on the back and take a deep breath celebrating my accomplishment. But a reward system for writing accomplishments or finishing stories? Such a thing is nonexistent. But it is worth pondering. Why can’t I treat myself every now and then for, say, writing for twenty minutes non-stop or writing five hundred words? Even for a small feat, I deserve some kind of treat.

Having said that, I think an effective reward system needs three things: a detailed plan, someone to hold you accountable, and . If I had those things in place from the beginning, I might be further along in my writing journey. I think back to that lofty goal I had of writing a short story a month and how I adjusted that goal because I couldn’t meet the demand I put on myself. If I had a reward system in place for each phase of the process I accomplished, I might be talking about the success rather than making the adjustment to writing a story every three months.

Let’s start with the plan, and I’m not talking haphazardly saying I’ll do something. But having a concrete plan thoroughly laid out. I’m part of a Facebook writing group that references a goal system called SMART. Under this system, goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. I’ll refer to the short story goal I had. There are a lot of reasons why it failed. One is that I didn’t have a concrete plan. I wasn’t specific in the phases I needed to accomplish and didn’t set deadlines to meet. But the bottom line is that I set a goal that wasn’t achievable. Maybe for any other writer, but not me. Fast forward to today, where I have modified the short story goal. Instead of twelve, I’m shooting for four. This works better for me because I can be specific in what I want to accomplish and can set deadlines without feeling rushed.

Now, let’s talk accountability. Every writer needs a person or two or a group of people to keep them on his toes. To make sure he stays on task. I am a part of a few Facebook writing groups where they have posts asking writers to either report their progress or encourage writers to ask for assistance. On Twitter, I follow StoryDam, an online writing community similar to the IWSG. Every day, there’s a tweet asking followers who want to be “nagged” if they’ve written or not. Looking back on the goal I made, I should have made more of an effort to ask my writing friends on Twitter and Facebook to hold me accountable and keep me focused on whatever phase of the project I was on.

And finally, there are the consequences. This is the area where I’m tempted to cheat the system. Where I can justify my actions when I didn’t fulfill a task to completion. But this is where having a concrete plan and accountability come into play. I need a detailed, thought out plan to follow and people to hold me to the consequences I set for myself. I naturally gravitate toward the negative. Having certain things taken away from me. The feeling of disappointing my writing friends. And I think they would spur me more to get my writing done. But there are positive consequences as well and they can be just as effective. Either way, the point is to get the job done. Ultimately, the real joy comes from the satisfaction of working as hard as I can to get a task completed.

I don’t have a reward system in place, but I do see the benefits. I think what makes it effective is having a strong, time-structured plan, a reliable group of accountability partners, and rewards/penalties to light my butt up to complete a task. I’ll take some time within these next weeks to create a reward system tailored to my needs. In the meantime, I want to hear from you.

How do you reward yourself? Do you have a system in place? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, take care and keep writing…


9 thoughts on “Establishing a Reward System: An IWSG Post

  1. I do have a rewards system in place based on a combination of word counts and writing hours and a points-based system to cover the editing process. There’s a lot of math involved. Some of my friends say my system is stupidly complicated, and they’re right. I wouldn’t recommend my system to others, but it works well for me. And I think that’s the really important thing: find a system that works for you and stick to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SMART goals can be so helpful – but, like you say, there is the challenge of holding yourself accountable. That’s one of the reasons I try to state my goals in a way that others can see it. I have a few friends reading my revisions as I complete each chapter – and I’ve promised them at least one chapter a month. I know that I will feel like I’ve let them down if I don’t follow through on that (though they are also understanding when things get in the way that really do keep me from meeting that goal – such as was the case this past month).
    Good luck with your short stories!


  3. You have to figure out what works for you, whether it’s public accountability or a reward system. I have a little bit of both, but really, if I’m going to write, I’m going to write, with rewards/consequences or without.


  4. When I’m done with a specific number of words in a day, I can go out and spend some time on a walk, or watch a documentary, shoot the breeze with friends. No system in place, but I do set word goals on scrivener, and when I hit them, I give myself a pat on the back, maybe bake a little or spend time in my garden.

    I party once I’m done with a novel draft, always.

    You’re doing a great job with analysing this–I’m afraid all of that is beyond my scatterbrained capabilities 🙂


  5. A thought provoking post. I think having a finished and polished story is usually the only reward I need. I set goals for myself weekly and publish them in a forum to which I belong. Then I have to post which of those goals I accomplished. I almost always have at least one thing I failed to accomplish. I don’t have any accountability partners. I think having them written down where everyone can view them is enough, but it’s really about holding myself to the goals I’ve set. I think different things work for different people. I really enjoyed your post and it’s given me some things to think about.


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