How to Motivate Yourself (with Bribery)

My steampunk novel is currently in the hands of Serious Professionals (GULP!), which means I can either twiddle my thumbs to stubs waiting anxiously, or distract myself by writing something else.  I choose distraction.

It’s been a while since I worked on a first draft of a book, and while it’s super good fun when everything flows beautifully, it’s awful when nothing flows, and I feel like I’m hacking at my characters with an icepick, screaming ‘PLEASE DO WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO!’ like an exasperated mother.  I try to write every day, but this weekend felt like pulling teeth.

Today, however, I did over 2,000 words.  Not a world record by any stretch, but far more than I’ve managed for the last three days.

How did I manage it?


In important interviews, I like to say that I’m very self-motivated.  This is, technically, true.  However, what it ultimately translates to is ‘I’m very good at bribing myself to do things I don’t really want to.’

At school, I used to turn on my Gamecube and fire up Twilight Princess, and then do my coursework to the background noise of the pause menu.  If I finished a page, I could play for ten minutes.  All my coursework got done on time, and Twilight Princess was the first Zelda game I ever completed.  At uni, I binged through Community by allowing myself  one episode for every twenty minutes of essay writing I completed.

And now?  Now I use friendship bracelets.

It’s got to be a cool hobby if Mr. Obama does it.

Those little plaited threads are weirdly addictive.  I feel like everyone else learned to do them in the playground at school – or at summer camp, if you’re American – but I only picked up the hobby this year, and I can’t seem to stop.  I have a friendship bracelet for every outfit, in every colour.

This just goes to show, you can motivate yourself to do anything – even write 2,000 words when it feels like banging your head against a wall – if you have something to bribe yourself with.