I struggle to set up each new chapter in my novel. I want to jump right into the dialog and action and keep the story moving along. While writing the first installment of Valley of the Bees, I did just that. I wrote the story in the throes of momentum and didn’t slow down for anything as uninteresting as setting up my chapters properly. When all was said and done, my story came out to around 25,000 words and was in desperate need of transitional material between chapters. Imagine how I felt when I realized that I was going to have to sit down and write all of that boring stuff at once.
I am a strong believer in positive reinforcement. I have even talked about it here before in relation to writing. I have often wondered how I could use positive reinforcement to become a more productive writer. So, I just about jumped off the couch a few minutes ago when I stumbled upon a scientific explanation for writer’s procrastination in a book I’m reading titled, Don’t Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training, by Karen Pryor.
The following excerpt describes a “phenomenon that occurs on very long [reinforcement] schedules: slow starts.” According to Pryor, a subject “tends to “put off” starting for longer periods as the schedule of reinforcement gets longer.”
This is sometimes called delayed start of a long-duration behavior, and it’s a very familiar aspect of human life. On any long task, from doing the income taxes to cleaning out the garage, one can think of endless reasons for not starting now. Writing, even sometimes just the writing of a letter, is a long-duration behavior. Once it gets started, things usually roll along fairly well, but, oh! it’s so hard to make oneself sit down and begin.
Want a rush? Try this little motivational strategy I just stumbled upon. I was having one of those really productive days where I had so much I wanted to do I ended up taking a nap instead. I needed to do a read-through of my current novel draft, but I was SO sick of looking at it on my computer screen. I considered printing it out, but my printer can’t handle such a large job. And I wasn’t in the mood for an expensive trip to the library printer. So yeah, I took a nap.