Friday, September 16, 2011

Chocolate and Rewards

This week I hit a sort-of milestone. I finished off a box of See’s chocolates. In fact, I ate the whole box except for one piece that my husband ate. Yay! Go me! I ate lots of chocolate! In other news, I’m trying to lose weight.

Ahem. Actually, I ate the chocolates slowly, earning them chocolate by chocolate. They’re my bribe chocolates that I use to reward myself for writing. To earn one chocolate, I have to write 1000 words, so an empty chocolate box means that—hooray!—I’m making good progress on my current project. And no, I’m not an author who kicks out eight or ten thousand words in a day—that would definitely be problematic on the weight-loss front. If I could write that fast, I’d have to bribe myself with celery, and I can tell you right now how well THAT would work ("Here's my new suspense novel! It's twelve words long!").

I got the idea of bribing myself with See’s chocolates from author Melanie Jacobson (and if you don’t already read Melanie’s blog, go check it out—she’s very witty and entertaining. Also she just released a new book, Not My Type).

The See’s Chocolate System works so well for me that it’s a little scary. Who knew I was so highly motivated by chocolate? I’ve never been very good at bribing myself—the “do this, and then you can earn that” sort of thing. I fizzle out way too quickly. Bribing yourself, strangely enough, takes discipline and strangely enough, I’ve never had anyone pounding on my door saying wow, you have such an abnormal abundance of self-discipline! Can I borrow some? But to my delight, I found that Melanie’s chocolate suggestion works for me very, very well. I think it works because:

1-I love chocolate.
2-See’s chocolates are a special kind of treat—not the normal chocolate I’d keep around for snacking.
3-There’s this fun uncertainty in wondering what kind of chocolate I’ll get, since I can’t identify most of the chocolates from their outward appearance. This makes it more fun than if they were all the same kind.
4-I can earn the rewards regularly. It’s not like my goal is “Finish the book and then you can buy a box of chocolates.” Instead, I get small rewards along the way. A thousand words is a good chunk of writing—about four pages—but it’s not so much that I fizzle out and lose enthusiasm (and don't get me wrong--I do enjoy writing, or I wouldn't be a writer. But sometimes the momentum isn't there and it's too easy for me to waste time and get distracted and not accomplish much). 

One thing I love is that if I’m getting close to earning a chocolate, it sometimes motivates me to keep writing when maybe I’d otherwise quit (“You only need 200 more words and you get a chocolate!”) Did I mention I’m highly motivated by chocolate?

This is actually my second box, but it’s the first full box I’ve earned. I bought the first box months ago, and made some good progress initially, but then with the craziness of summer, I wasn’t getting any writing done, and with the heat in our un-air-conditioned house, the chocolates were going bad, which is NOT OKAY (should have kept them in the fridge, I guess). So I finally ended up handing out the remaining (somewhat stale and formerly melted) chocolates to the kids (and myself, of course). Normally, I keep bribe chocolates stashed away and don’t offer them around. There is other chocolate available for snacking, but bribe chocolates are for writing motivation.

My WIP now stands at nearly 69K, which I figure means I’m at least 2/3 of the way done with the first draft. And I bought a new box of chocolates, so I'm ready to write more. Kind of wish I'd earned a chocolate now, because I'm hungry, but I have 384 words to go . . . 


  1. That's brilliant! Really. I'm going to have to think about doing that. It's actually not a bad way to lose weight. Makes the chocolate do double duty.

    And as for celery as an incentive ... "Here's my new suspense novel! It's twelve words long!"

    Okay, so you made me laugh out loud with this.

  2. Ditto to everything Donna said.
    I am going to have to try this. I need some motivation to get my current 35,000 words nearly doubled. See's chocolate sounds like the perfect bribe.

  3. :) Yeah, some things just require chocolate. When I was complaining about never craving things like carrots, my friend Jon Spell pointed out, "Yeah, but how much writing would you get done if you rewarded yourself with a carrot for every 1000 words?" He definitely had a point.

    And the good news is that each See's chocolate is only about 80 calories :)

  4. I love the thought that an empty chocolate box means you're making good progress! What a fabulous idea! I think it really helps to get small rewards along the way. I might just have to try this myself!

  5. Hooray for chocolate! Thanks for helping me hit my own milestone and becoming my hudredth blog follower!

  6. :) Peggy, yeah, it's fun having an empty chocolate box actually signify something good!

    I'm glad to have found your blog, Renae!

  7. I totally love this and am now going to copy this brilliant idea. But I don't love See's chocolates, so I'll have to get some Dove!