Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Dangling Carrot vs The Stick

Deliciousness brought to you by Kickass Cupcakes
Confession: I'm horrible about sticking to self imposed deadlines.

It's weird because I have an excess of will power in most areas of my life. If I can logically explain how a thing is bad for me, I have no problem giving it up. Yet when it's crunch time for reaching my own writing goals I make new deadlines rather than scramble to finish on time.

Who cares if I push it back again? I don't have an agent and no one will know...

Last year I got a bottle of really nice champagne for my birthday in August. I told myself I'd open it when I earned it. I landed a new job I really wanted in October, wrote over 10,000 words in November but still didn't pop the bubbly. Once the goals were attained, I didn't feel like a reward was in order. I do see how this is insane reasoning and it isn't that I didn't think what I had done was impressive. For me, getting the job and the satisfaction of a productive month of writing were enough.

It comes down to whether someone is after the carrot or dodging the stick. Some personality types are driven by threat of the stick or repercussions of failure. Others are enticed by the carrot or the reward that success will bring. My dog* for instance, he's definitely after the carrot.**

He was willing to do anything for this PupCake

I realized that when I was in a critique group, I got my pages reviewed and out to my critique partners on time...okay I cut it close occasionally, but I got the pages and my critiques out.

I'm not actually interested enough in the reward. In fact, I have been known to procrastinate cashing in the rewards I have earned for myself. Even the cupcakes in this post, which were a post-5K run reward, weren't my idea. My friend who I ran with suggested it.

What really gets me to follow through is fear of letting someone down or of embarrassing myself by not doing what I promised. This makes my problem with writing deadlines apparent-I don't have anyone holding a stick.

The solution, which may be obvious at this point, is that I need to someone to be my stick wielder and hold me accountable if I don't get my pages done. Of course, I could do another critique group, but I want to get my first draft complete as soon as possible and as much as I like critiquing I don't really have much time to spare for that right now. So, I volunteered a friend to be my beta and first line of defense against awful grammar, typos and crummy plot lines. I'm going to send her 50 pages every two weeks. I sent her my first 50 pages on Sunday. The theory being that by August I should have a complete draft that's fairly clean. Then I can beg for critiques and send a polished draft to the rest of my betas.

Now if only I could get someone to force me to eat cupcakes...

*All dogs are like this, which is why it's best to punish your dog with the lack of a reward. They'll figure out what they have to do to get the reward, especially if it's a delicious puppy cupcake.

**My dog would like you all to know that he hates carrots and doesn't appreciate this analogy.


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