But lately I've noticed another trend, mostly on twitter. Maybe it's due to the number of people actively writing during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), or maybe it's because in the dark and cold days of winter we're all looking for that a little help with our motivation. I'm talking about the Carrot or Stick debate.
Can you be encouraged by the promise of a reward, or do you have to be threatened with punishment in order to act? For example:
Carrots - Rewards
- A cookie for a hundred words
- Fifteen minutes on twitter for a thousand
- A look at Allison Pang's Midnight Man Candy for a chapter.
And no, that's not why all my chapters are now forty-two words long. Sheesh, what do you take me for?
Sticks - Punishments
- No lunch until you finish the chapter
- No tumblr until you revise ten pages
- No showering until you finish this draft (this is really punishment for the people around you, so I suggest you avoid it unless you 1. hate the people around you or 2. need to convince them unequivocally to stop distracting you)
I tend toward a hybrid system like I do with my plotting (I'm a culottser - it's like pants but smaller), mostly because I have impulse control issues. I'll decide on my reward (say, a cookie), then sit and stare at the screen, maybe run a spell check and spin in my chair. I'll eat the cookie. Then I'll have guilt, and complete whatever task I had originally set for myself, except the reward is already long gone. It's like crossing a finish line to find the crowd's packed up and gone home.
My punishment system doesn't work very well either. I'll tell myself that, if I don't finish a specific scene, I'll have to get on the treadmill. Please understand, I hate to exercise. But, I won't finish the scene. So I'll drag myself to the treadmill, intending to work through the scene in my head so that I'll be able to fly directly from the torture device to the computer and rattle it off.
Of course, in order to stay on the treadmill, I have to lose myself in daydreams so elaborate that I forget what I'm doing. Mostly they consist of the same material as my dreams: corporate espionage, cracking animal fighting rings in the mid-west, being really good at karaoke, being a nanny for Jackie Chan's kids in a world where every day is like a Jackie Chain movie (lot of axe gangs in my dreamworld).
And then, when I finish, I'll be no closer to the solution for me scene.
What works for you? How do you motivate yourself? What's the biggest carrot you've ever promised yourself?