A Year of Finishing Novels: Rewards and Celebrations

A small jar full of colorful papers that says rewards , a valentine's card that says you're AMAZING! and a small purple plastic megaphone on a desk.
Celebrate the Little Things by Maria L. Berg 2022

I tried again to do a Sunday week in review post, and again my work wouldn’t load, so Monday is my Year of Finishing Novels posts day. I am not going to waste time fighting with my internet. My time is for writing novels and reaching my goals. And sharing my progress and what I’m learning with you, of course.

Rewards

As I mentioned in my last post, a habit cycle consists of a cue, a behavior, and a reward. As I began this process of identifying the habits I would like to create, and the habits I would like to change, I found it hard to identify my rewards.

I don’t like shopping. I have everything I want and need, and I don’t have money to spend on things as rewards. I also didn’t want food or beverages to be my rewards. I felt kind of stuck. I wanted to set up these systems to reward my new behaviors, but how?

Then I really looked at myself and thought about times in my past when I was really happy. I went through a period of time when I closely associated with Tigger because I love bouncing. I’m trying to increase movement and exercise, so jumping on my rebounder (small trampoline) became a reward.

That got me thinking that many of the behaviors I enjoy that are not writing could act as rewards for meeting my small goals. With fun activities as rewards I came up with:

  1. Jump on the rebounder
  2. Draw for 10 minutes
  3. Dance Break!
  4. Go take some pictures
  5. Stretch on yoga ball
  6. Put stickers on stuff
  7. 10 minute meditation
  8. Play guitar for five minutes

I was also reading Jack Canfield’s Success Affirmations and was inspired to write some phrases to tell myself I am doing great.

I wrote my action rewards and my affirmations on colorful slips of card stock paper, folded them up and put them in a jar, so when I had done my desired action, I could open my reward jar (pictured above), and get a surprise reward.

At first, when I pulled an affirmation out of my word jar and said it aloud, it didn’t feel like much of a reward. Then one day, when I was cleaning out the closet for my meditation, I found an old toy megaphone (pictured above) that has five different voice-altering settings. When I said my affirmation (any of the affirmations out of my reward jar) using the megaphone on either the high pitch, low pitch, or monotone settings, it made me laugh. That felt like a reward.

Celebrations

In Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg takes a different stand on what reward really means. He says the idea of a large reward in the future for achieving your goal isn’t going to work. You need to reward yourself instantly after your behavior (Made me think of training a pet). To do this, he chooses to fist bump and say, “I’m awesome” (Even after he flosses one tooth, since that was his tiny habit that he started with to create a flossing habit).

It’s important to send yourself that little dose of dopamine (pleasure) to get the behavior to stick. Finding what works for you is important. Fist bump and “I’m awesome” didn’t work for me. After thinking about how I respond to happy news and practicing some things, I found clapping three times and saying, “Yeah!” or “Woohoo” in a certain way, gave me a smile and a good feeling of accomplishment.

With my rewards and celebrations in place, I have the tools I need to create and solidify the small changes that will make my large goals possible.

A Salty Poem Interlude

Over at dVerse Poets Pub the Quadrille Monday prompt is salt. Whimsygizmo challenges us to use any form of the word “salt” in a poem of exactly 44 words.

The Salty Bite

Like the squares of Himalayan Pink Salt I’ve pinched
so sparingly for years from the squat jar sitting
by the coffee in the cupboard, each word can pack
a surprising punch, especially when the salty bite
hides in the center of the sweetest treat.

A photograph of a small jar of Himalayan Pink Salt on a shelf.

Assessment

Last week was big for me. Some set-backs and disappointments on the sleep goal, but also some break-throughs.

My weekly check-in:

  1. What went right last week? My morning writing habit is going so well. I have started thinking about my novel the moment I wake up. This morning I ran to the keyboard so I wouldn’t forget what I was thinking, and had my daily words before I started my routine. I’m now doing the full writer’s meditation (body, heart, and mind) and getting better at sitting every day. I find that when my mind wanders, it wanders to my novel which is fantastic! I’m moving more and more throughout the day. I have fuller range of motion, and I’m pain free!!
  2. What didn’t go well last week? Sleep is still difficult. The week’s biggest disappointment was a day and night when I felt I had done absolutely everything right, then I got into bed and it was like I didn’t know how to go to sleep. I stared into the darkness for what felt like forever. I tossed and turned and tossed and turned. I gave up and read. It felt like torture. The next day I gave in and slept with the laptop. The next day I read three sleep books. Two of them: Restful Sleep by Deepak Chopra and The Sleep Solution by W. Chris Winter explained why I had been disappointed by my efforts, and they both said the same thing: Sleep is natural; you can’t try to sleep. You have to let sleep happen. I had tried so hard, worked so hard to sleep, I had created an entirely new anxiety keeping me awake. Sounds like something I would do. But no more! This week I will let sleep happen.
  3. What small steps will I add this week? This week I’m adding my voice to the mix. I’m going to do vocal exercises in the morning and sing and play guitar at night after I put the laptop away and before I go to bed.
  4. Is it time to increase one of my habits? I’m happy to say I feel ready to increase my daily writing goal again. This week I’m writing 750 words or more every day. I always said I wasn’t one of those people who writes every day, but that is exactly who I am, and it’s making such a difference in every aspect of my life.
  5. What else did I try? One of the little things I tried last week that turned out to make a huge difference, was a simple Youtube video called Vagus Nerve Reset. The sleep issues and constant state of fight or flight that my poor body has been in both stem from surviving Hurricane Katrina and the the piles of stressors after that. I never stopped being in that survival mode, until now. Since I started these small new habits of motion in the morning and meditation and paying attention to my body, I’ve noticed my range of motion improving and the knots in my back loosening up, but I also had a horrible pain in my right shoulder. I knew it was all that stress not wanting to let go; I’ve held stress in my shoulders since high school, but this was an acute pain that wouldn’t loosen up and was hurting when I tried to sleep. I was almost crying by the time I went ahead and tried the Vagus Nerve video. And I noticed a difference. That same day I did the Full body scan meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Masterclass and though my shoulder was still bothering me, by the end of the meditation, it wasn’t screaming at me. I did the Vagus Nerve Reset and the Vagus Nerve Exercises again the next day and then yesterday was my first pain free day. I was so happy I was dancing and singing around the house all day. It might be a placebo. I don’t care. I’m going to keep doing it and being so very happy.

Accountability

One area that every resource talks about is social accountability. I have found many times in the past that if I share my goals here on Experience Writing, I am more likely to achieve them.

I would really enjoy if you would like to join me in an accountability club. Every week, type your goals in the comments, or leave a link to your post and we can check in with each other to see how we did with our goals.

My goals this week are to:

  1. Write at least 750 words of my novel every day
  2. Add vocal warm-ups in the morning and guitar playing before bed
  3. One story submission and one poetry submission this week

That’s it. I hope you will hold me accountable.

We Can Reach Our Goals Together!

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