The Reward System Works

The reward system is part of the process of writing, and it works.

RewardSystemWorks_TVAs a book coach and writer, my message to you is that we need to set modest goals along the way to our finished products. When you achieve any goal, give yourself a reward: a half hour of TV without guilt or a phone call to a friend after writing three pages.

I’m reminded of a lesson I learned around the reward system when my son David was seven-years old. The year before, we had bought him his first two-wheeler for his sixth birthday. It was a bright red bike that said “Team Murray” on the side and he loved it. He showed it off to all the neighbors. The only trouble was, he never rode it, at least not after his first few falls. He just refused to try. He even attempted to convince me—and, hence, himself—that he didn’t want to ride his bike.

I was reminded of how I used to suck my thumb when I was around his age. My dad couldn’t get me to stop and he didn’t know what to do. Finally one night as he was tucking me into bed he said he would buy me a baseball glove if I could go a week without sucking my thumb. I never sucked my thumb again.

Of course, to this day I bite my nails.

Anyhow, David was into Nintendo by this time so I promised him I would buy him any Nintendo game he wanted as soon as he learned how to ride his bike. He was riding it in one day.

The reward system works.

[This piece was adapted from a sidebar in Transforming Lives: A Socially Responsible Guide to the Magic of Writing and Researching.]