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a:The Hack’s Guide to Rewarding Yourself

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Hacks for Hacks: Sense of Humor Required

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

It seems like only yesterday you woke up with an idea. That idea metastasized in your mind into something grander, something that screamed to be written down lest it sit and fester inside your brain a moment longer. Each day, your book ruled your life, either by cracking the whip as you sat at your writing desk, or haunting you like a phantom on the days you dared take time to relax. You skipped parties, blew off friends, and alienated your family in service to your craft until one day you finally finished the book. After all that work, you’ve earned a small slice of cake!

Obviously, the ultimate reward for any author is to have your book turned into a prestige TV series. When does that day come, though? Writing is, at its core, an exercise in delayed gratification, with wide variation in the length of that delay and the quality of that gratification. Even the fastest writer can spend months pouring their heart and soul into a book that can be consumed in a matter of hours—a ratio that is, at best, a meditation on the nature of art, and at worst, an outright scam. For many writers, “After my book is finished…” has the same energy as “When the pandemic is over…” and “When Daddy gets back from the store with cigarettes…” When writing success always seems just over the horizon in perpetuity, it’s up to you to reward yourself for finishing a draft, a chapter, a single page if that’s what you need to keep going.

To tide you over until you sign your big publishing deal, here are a few ways you can reward yourself for meeting your writing goals.

  • More writing time! It’s a pandemic, so that means no dining out, no drinks at your favorite bar, no parties with friends. May as well reward yourself by getting a head start on your next draft. What fun!
  • Ice cream. Calories don’t count if they’re consumed within twelve hours of finishing a short story, forty-eight for a book. They also don’t count if consumed immediately after getting dumped for neglecting your relationship while you writing.
  • Read a book. Pick up a paperback and fill yourself with rage that such a terrible book got published while you toil in obscurity. For a change of pace, read a masterpiece and fill yourself with despair over how much time you spent writing a book so inferior.
  • Takeout food. Take a break from cooking and have food delivered from your second-favorite restaurant (your fave having unfortunately shut down during the pandemic). When your food arrives, strike up a conversation with the delivery driver about how nice it is to talk to another human being. You may have to speak up as they slowly back away.
photo by Zechariah Judy
  • Shopping spree! Put those shoes you like in your Amazon shopping cart. Then grab a new chair for your living room, one that would be perfect to flop into and read a book. When you’re done, empty out your cart because you’re still a broke, struggling writer. That was lots of fun for a few minutes, though, wasn’t it?
  • Watch a movie. Remember, this is a reward, so make it a movie you want to watch, no matter how juvenile or trashy it is, or how many times you’ve seen it already, or how many pop-up ads appear when you click the link to watch it, by yourself, in Incognito mode.
  • 30mg of melatonin. If you’re like me, sleep is the best five-and-a-half hours of your day—next to your time spent writing, of course! After months slogging through a book that you now thoroughly despise, the best reward you can give your exhausted brain is a long and dreamless slumber.

Rewarding yourself as a writer is as crucial to the creative process as pens, paper, and coffee. Ignore the fact that you’re an adult who can have any of these rewards any time you want, even if you never write another word in your life. Also don’t think about how you have transformed the act of writing—an activity you love—into an obstacle you must overcome to get other things you want. This is healthy behavior. Perfectly healthy and normal.

How do you like to reward yourself as a writer? Share your techniques in the comments!


About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris (he/him) left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.


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