Reward Thyself

Scarlett JohanssonI hit the keys on my computer like a maniacal pianist, the taps play their thumping music as words are pouring out of me like blood from a head wound. When the writing flows it’s like being given an extra day of your life to spend with Scarlett Johannson and she’s only wearing a bikini made of cellophane.

The writing is so good at the moment that in some far off section of my brain I am imagining today’s writing reward: Four beers at my local pub, the tasty lamb knee with spinach and mashed potatoes and one Becherovka afterward. Life is good.

Writing is an easy thing not to do. Most people don’t have to write and if nobody is paying you to do it, you could very well put it on the back burner and forget all about it. And I could teach a PhD-level seminar on procrastination. To combat my natural laziness, I have installed a method of getting my fat rump into action.

I set specific goals, achieve them and then reward myself. Though my rewards are often ingestible, they are not limited to food and drink. I have rewarded myself with mindless (glorious) television, an extra hour of sleep and an hour of nerdifying on any of’s history blogs—before you ask, yes, I’m single, I know it’s amazing.

This specific goal and reward system sounds do-able…in theory. But doing thirty push-ups every morning and reading Ernest Hemingway in Czech sound do-able in theory; the trick is doing it. And that’s the tough part.

This ‘tough part’ has underhanded compatriots whose existence is solely based on destroying my productivity. They are called websites. Wikipedia and are to my writing productivity as a mouth herpe is to an evening of romance. It’s easy to see why Balzac could write for fifteen straight hours at times, he didn’t have to contend with Youtube.

My goal for today is to write three pages of the humorous relationship book that my writing partner Emma and I are working on. At the speed that I am working I might be done by about 5 p.m. and that means I can enjoy my tasty reward much earlier than anticipated.

But then I hit a snag.

That snag’s name is I make the mistake of looking up a word in the middle of writing and that is all the evil computer needs to draw me away from my work. leads to which in turn leads to and then and the situation degrades in every way imaginable.

When I finally get back to work I have destroyed any flow that I had going and now the words are coming out with a speed most often attributed to zombies. And now, instead of Scarlett Johansson, I get fat Elvis clad in the same cellophane bikini.

I begin the pacing routine around my flat, which is how I know that I have really killed my flow. I will do anything now rather than write. I organize books, call my mom (sorry Mom!) and break out the swifter. When I start doing my dishes I know that I am screwed. The tasty lamb knee becomes an unreachable nugget across a field of foxholes filled with armed websites and activities.

In the goal and reward system you have to stick to your guns: if you don’t reach your goal, you can’t enjoy the reward.

I make a tuna fish sandwich and eat it while frowning at the computer screen. I tap a word every few minutes or so and finally achieve my goal around 10 p.m. – too late for my yummy reward.

I switch the reward to two episodes of Frasier and iron my shirt for the next day as I watch them, the tinny taste of tuna and cellophane-wrapped fat Elvis mocking me as I do so.

  1. #1 by Emma on November 10, 2011 - 2:25 pm

    so, if i we get some work done on saturday, can our reward be several beers and some of that weird strawberry vodka stuff? Cos that stuff was awesome. also, i’ve been writing all day, granted it’s my job, and i’m being paid for it, but i still feel the need for a reward. it may be pizza. or a nap. or both.

  2. #2 by Andrew on November 10, 2011 - 3:19 pm

    “And now, instead of Scarlett Johansson, I get fat Elvis clad in the same cellophane bikini.”

    I fail to see the problem here. Clearly you are biased against rhinestones, mutton-chops and sweaty man-boobs…oh wait, yes, yessir, you have a point.

  3. #3 by Chris on November 17, 2011 - 10:25 pm

    Humorous relationship book? Wha?

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