Friday, October 24, 2014

Another excuse to buy stickers

Most writers know the adage that if you want to be a writer then you need to actually write. Seems pretty obvious, but I think all writers can find themselves struggling to actually sit down and write every single day. It can be hard finding the motivation once self-doubt starts trickling (or flooding) into your mind. Plus, we all have other things fighting for our attention…some important (like family) and some not (like Facebook).

 Ironically, I was on Facebook when I recently stumbled across a motivational technique that some other YA writers were trying. I can’t find the original post anymore because it got buried, but I’ll add it in here if I ever find it again. Now, given that all YA writers are very serious people, you can imagine that this is a pretty complex technique that they’ve created.

Naw, just kidding. They motivate themselves with—wait for it—stickers.

Stickers! I know, at first glance this might seem really silly. We’re not in third grade anymore. (I mean, it’s probably more like 11th or 12th grade since we’re always in the minds of our teen characters, but that’s besides the point.) Anyway, I actually really love this idea. It’s a simple extension of classic psychology research on behaviorism: you can increase a behavior by positively reinforcing it. In other words, if you get a little prize for doing something then you’re more likely to do it. That’s why kids get pizza parties for good behavior and students get cash for good grades. For some reason, although I teach these principles every semester, I never thought about applying them to writing in such an obvious fashion. I have to say though, so far I’m loving it!

For one thing, it’s cheap. I just printed out some free calendar pages I found online and then got a few packs of smiley face stickers at the store. Then I made a color-coded system (which sounds fancier than it actually is).  For instance, I get an orange sticker if I listen to my audiobook during my commute and a green sticker if I write a blog post. (Hello, green sticker!)

In my defense, I was super sick during that week with no stickers!
It’s weirdly addicting. I’ve hung the calendar page in my direct line-of-sight, and the sticker-less days judge me from across the room. I find myself coming up to write or read more often lately, not necessarily because it’s important (although it is!), but because I don’t want to miss out on getting my darn stickers!

So, if anyone is struggling for motivation, I’d say to go to the craft store and stock up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a green sticker that’s calling my name.

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