Rr: Review, Reboot, Reward. Revitalizing Your Daily Effort

During April, I will be blogging about how creative people can practice their craft every day and what rewards will come from the daily effort.


Rr: Review, Reboot, Reward
Revitalizing Your Daily Effort

Inevitably, your daily practice will wax and wane. When it wanes, there are three things you can do to rejuvenate your effort.

First, regularly review the results of your daily effort. Inventory all of the pieces and parts you’ve been working on for the last few months. As you make your list of Projects Underway, you’ll see all of the work sprouting at different stages and how much you’ve accomplished — even if no one project is near completion. Daily work really does add up if you stick with it for more than a few weeks. Also, note which pieces and parts could be combined, which feel ready for completion, which feel most compelling, and which seem to have gone cold. Appraising your stockpile of work will re-ignite your love of your craft and help you prioritize what to work on during your daily practice. (See also, O.)

Second, when necessary, reboot. Although I still stand by my point in Aa about the alluring promise of tomorrow, making a mindful and deliberate fresh start can help you recover quickly when you miss practice for a number of days, weeks, or have a sporadic month. Even though tomorrow (or whatever date you declare as your fresh start) you’ll most likely be the same person you are today with the same challenges, rebooting means recommitting to the tenants of daily practice, diving back in with renewed dedication for a set amount of time.

After trying to write daily for about six months, I had a sporadic month. It felt harder to practice, I arrived to the desk quite lackluster, and I skipped a lot of days for no good reason. So, I chose the first of the next month to reboot, and told a few friends about my intention so I’d feel accountable. I simply re-dedicated myself to practicing every single day for the entire month—with a twist. If I managed to practice all but maybe three days that month, I would get a reward. I needed the idea of a reward, of formal recognition of my efforts, to be the carrot luring me to the desk.

So, third, lure yourself back to the daily grind with a reward. Rewards are for those who have done the work and met the requirements. Your reward must be something special and rare, something you can long for and work toward. The treat must also match the effort it’s rewarding. I wanted a trip to Hawai’i, but that was both way too much for my budget and way over-sized for the work it would reward. And lastly, the reward must be delayed, delayed gratification. You don’t get mini-bites of your reward to nibble throughout the month. The reward sparkles four weeks ahead, luring you back into good work habits and faith in your self and your craft.

One friend rewarded herself with an online celebration of all she’d achieved that month. Another friend suggested I buy myself something cool from Etsy (because why not support another’s craft while rewarding my own?). Chocolate, fancy dinner, a massage, a movie … all of these came as suggestions.

I’ll be eager to hear what you choose as a reward. Although I wrote nearly every day that month and it reinvigorated my efforts for many months to follow, I never gave myself my reward. Because, as much as I used to role my eyes when I’d see that bumper sticker “It’s the journey, not the destination,” that’s exactly what I discovered during my reboot.

The re-dedication to my craft and daily effort was its own reward.

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7 Responses to Rr: Review, Reboot, Reward. Revitalizing Your Daily Effort

  1. Debs Carey says:

    Yes, its funny isn’t it. When you find the right way for yourself, all those promised self-gifting moments no longer seem to matter. But its fun thinking of what the gift should be …

    • TRISTA says:

      I was loathe to admit it, but it was true … the writing was its own reward. I like your point about why it was its own reward: I’d found the right way for myself.

  2. Alex Hurst says:

    This is a good idea. I tend to forget all the accomplishments thus far, and feel like I haven’t “done” anything substantial, and…. rewards work really well for me, haha. I guess I should apply a reward system to writing goals, as well. Maybe giftcards to put towards Amazon purchases… something tangible.

    • TRISTA says:

      Maybe for every project started or worked on, you get a certain amount to add to your Amazon card? Or, maybe we worker-bees simply need to make time to appreciate, even celebrate, the moment we finish a project or part of it goes well before we dive into the next thing.

      • Alex Hurst says:

        Probably the latter more than the former… Of course, having a little bursary for “Me” spending would also be nice. I’ll have to ponder it. 🙂

  3. Rose L. says:

    I find if I try to make my writing become programmed it becomes more like a job and less like an enjoyment. Forcing does not seem to really work with me. Sometimes it takes a small inspiration–like a story told to me, a friends experience, an incident in my life, a movie–something to light an ember. Often I take notes. They seem to serve as jumpstarts. I feel odd in that I cannot force myself to be inspired, but have to let it simmer in me for a bit. I heard one well-known poet say after being asked about his writing practice: “I don’t do daily, set a time, any of that. I do inspiration, and it may come once a month, once a week, who knows.”

    • TRISTA says:

      Before I committed to daily practice, I took a lot of notes for writing ideas. What I found, however, is that I was too slow to return to my notes and they went cold, no more ember. With daily practice, I might add only a sentence or two at a time, but I’m finding that more of the little ideas start to grow and stay interesting. Some still go cold, and that’s okay. I also agree with you that letting something simmer can be important. I’m pretty sure it’s Ann Patchett who said that she will take as long as a year to think through an entire novel before starting to get it onto the page. (It was in “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.”)

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