Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Motivational Games

Technique Tuesday

I've long felt as comfortable using numbers and reasoning about quantities as I have using letters and crafting arguments. Perhaps because of that appreciation, I've also long felt uncomfortable using numbers to measure performance. I finally came to terms with the practice when I realized it could (and should) be understood as nothing more than a motivational game.

When asked about their processes, I've heard many writers mention the motivational games they play. They generally follow the pattern of promising themselves a reward if they write some number of words, or for a given amount of time, or send a number of submissions, etc.

The best motivational games are little systems that help you move forward. The worst get in the way of what you're trying to accomplish.

Sometimes good games become a problem when you lose perspective. There are two insidious ways to lose perspective:
  1. the game gets in the way of doing real work
  2. the game becomes something that adds to your burden of guilt and makes you too depressed to do real work.
So, how do you do keep your motivational games in perspective?

That's a skill you'll have to develop because we all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to distractions and procrastination. But here's an example to get you started.

While drafting my current novel, I played a game with my word count. I didn't have a particular daily target. Instead, I was simply looking for momentum--daily progress. So I counted the day as a success if I wrote at least 100 words. The game was to see how many consecutive days I could count as writing days. It may not sound like much, but that game helped me focus on steady progress during a period when my available writing time was constrained. And thanks to that steady progress, I recently completed another novel.

What motivational games do you find helpful?

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net