Writing is an arty business that requires a lot of patience, persistence and waiting. Many people give up too soon because they aren’t getting a dopamine release. Like your Mom told you as you lay on the living room couch in front of the XBOX for the eighteenth hour, you’ll do better in business if you master the knack for delayed gratification. (Somehow. I don’t know how.) The problem is your body is programmed to hit the short-term happy button like a chicken pounding the pellet lever for a crazed psychologist’s cocaine experiment. Long-term thinkers have manuscripts to publish. Short-term thinkers will ditch work to hit a Transformers movie.
Other professions get a personal payoff faster. Watch any chiropractor at work and you can see the dopamine release hit them in the brain pan with each spinal crack. Some professions never get a happy brain chemical payoff (e.g. any retail food industry job. The hit comes from abusing customers and stealing fries straight from the fry-o-later.)
People who write a lot do so for varied reasons: NaNoWriMo hopes, fear, desperation, spite, being otherwise unemployable, ambition, compulsion or perhaps, as George Orwell admitted, a rather pathetic need “to be thought clever.” (Bingo!) Underneath most of our brain tickles is dopamine, the drug of choice in the pharmacy that is your brain.
This may sound a little bit silly, but it’s working for me. Last night I was at my keyboard reworking the morning’s writing (the fountain pen’s comes first) and my nine-year-old son popped into the office and said, “What is that sound?”
“That, my tiny friend, is an ancient sound I’ve brought back through the magic of the interwebs.” (Google “Typewriter sounds” for your device and you’ll find another tool for your personal reward system.)
He gave me the quirky eyebrow, annoyed plus perplexed look. (Try that. It’s a tough combination.)
“That’s the sound of a typewriter, son.” When I hit the keys on my Mac’s keyboard, click, click, click-click, clickety click. Fun, yes? Well, it is for me. And I don’t think it’s just nostalgia for my first year of journalism school. I’m getting aural feedback on my typing so I find I’m typing a little faster and a little more accurately. And dopamine. That, plus the floaty feeling of slipping into a story and making the world go away.
Aaaaah! Give me another hit, Mr. Candyman! Clickety-clack, clickety-click, Barba trick…click…clickety…
How do you reward yourself for missions accomplished to keep the plates spinning and the fun coming faster?
- NaNoWriMo: 2011 (dteeps.wordpress.com)