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  • Mary Bergida DeLuca

Writing and Rewards

The box fan buzzes; I’m stripped down to a bare minimum of clothing; A soft cool-pack rests on my shoulders. I’m finally settling into writing this evening and I’m sweltering. Why instal A/C in the Pacific Northwest, they say, when you’d only need it two weeks a summer? Today I believe the two weeks would be worth it. I live for writing, and yet it is sometimes one of the most difficult things to get myself to actually do. I could easily say it’s too warm to write. I could say my brain is filled with humidity and smog. That my creative gears are rusting in this weather. But, what if it was rainy or frigid? What then? Would I be too dreary or too frozen to write?

Excuses, sadly, will always volunteer themselves in droves.

This summer I am daily working my way through Julia Cameron’s “The Right to Write” and continually relish her reminders that the inner writer, the inner creative, is like a child. Yes, somedays we can write for the sheer joy of it and some days we need to be bribed. Today I am thinking that once I’ve written, I’ll treat “my writer” to thirty minutes of my current Netflix addiction.

Is it cheap to bribe the writerly part of ourselves?

I think not. Work deserves a reward. When I was ten, I remember my dad paying my brothers and myself a dollar for each grocery bag we filled with the fertile weeds consuming our yard. Writing can de-weed our lives. Whether it’s just sorting through our thoughts, venting them, creating a new world, recreating an old one, writing is a way we clean up our lives. Shouldn’t that be reward enough? Maybe. Maybe not.

Do not under estimate the power of a reward for doing something that is difficult. And even the reward and effort can be simultaneous. What if you saved a special coffee brew just to indulge when writing? A candle or incense could have a similar effect.

Doing things just because they should be done, I find sound in theory, but lame in practice. Unlike my father’s plan to get the yard tidied, my mother had different tactics to try and get the house cleaned. She had everyone work together until the whole project was done. While this was a practical plan, it caused her many children to slip off like ferrets. Mom spent much of her energy trying to round up her workers. Why were we so particularly resistant? Besides our own hefty doses of laziness, the terrifying part of house cleaning was that the project never had fixed tasks or a time limit. Cleaning could sabotage your entire day.

Don’t push your writer child to rebel. Have a fixed amount of time or outcome (one page, one hundred words, maybe even just one sentence) for your daily practice and sweeten this with an appropriate reward.

At my window, a slight breeze teases. The heat is relaxing into evening. As I wrap up, writing has felt like a good stretch. The effort has brought its own reward. And happily, I can now go indulge in Netflix with an easy conscience.

Send me your ideas on effective rewards for writing and I’ll publish them in an upcoming post.

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