Most times it feels like there’s a disconnect between Rebecca the Writer (outside of the high school classroom) and Rebecca the English Teacher (inside the classroom). There’s a shift between teaching writing and engaging in writing, but every so often I’ll mention to my students that, over the weekend, I did something I’ve made them do during their drafting … and they’re still shocked. Wait, these graded steps are things I actually do … when there’s not a grade?
The one I took most recently isn’t really something that could be graded, but I’ve been doing it since grad school, and it still works.
Sometimes I have to bribe myself.
Not every day is a “Golly gee wilikers, I can’t wait to write!” kind of day. I mean, do you wake up every morning absolutely thrilled to go do your job? Even if it’s true more often than it isn’t, there are still … those days. And sometimes terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, but deadlines are real. You still need to get a draft or the edits into someone else’s hands.
I had chapter revisions due by April 30, and the thing is, they weren’t even all that bad. Comments came from a pair of editors, but neither of them was Reviewer 2. I had to clarify a couple things, but mostly … I had to change my citation style. (Oops.)
And I didn’t want to do it, of course. Citation is awful. I always leave it to the end. I’ll put the proper info after each quote, but I’ll put off formatting it as long as possible. Part of me argues that, this way, I’m totally focused on order and capitalization and punctuation, so it’ll all match, but really … I just don’t like doing it.
So, a week ago Saturday, I bribed myself into doing those edits.
I went up to Keweenaw Coffee Works to get brunch and a fancy coffee and told myself that, since I got all that and came all this way, I wasn’t allowed to leave until my edits were done.
Like I said, I’ve been doing this since grad school. I can go to 5th and Elm for lunch and a coffee, but only if I get through this reading. I can grab a cinnamon roll (sadly no longer available) from Cyberia, but only if I finish writing this paper for grad school. (Where’s that “food motivated” meme when I need it?)
Now, clearly, I know I’m bribing myself. And I know that there aren’t really any immediate consequences to going out, sitting there with my coffee and snack, and not doing the work. I’ll be in trouble if I don’t submit the thing I’ve promised, but it’s not like I’m going to send myself to bed without supper. So it doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. And I’ve told so many people it works for me.
And they’re still surprised to see me out at a coffee shop, working on something.
I get that some people can’t work in coffee shops, but it’s like with my students: when I break down the writing process into steps, it’s because that’s how I, personally, do those steps. My seniors had to write scripts for their presentations, and I started them off with dictating their scripts while running through their draft slides … and then did the same thing for my own PCA presentation.
The thing is, it’s not like a presentation (or a chapter, or a book, or a blog post) just springs fully formed from my head. There are so many steps that go into them, and I don’t always want to do all of those steps. Knowing those steps is a good thing, because at least I can plan out what I need to do in order to produce the thing, but doing those steps is the next hurdle.
And that’s why I bribe myself with a Brekkie Gallette and a fancy latte from KCW so I can edit my citations.
Have you ever bribed yourself to finish your writing? What’s your favorite bribe?