Rewards & Reinforcement (To Write & Have Written)

There’s a lot of advice out there on using rewards to motivate your writing (especially during stretch events like NaNoWriMo). While keeping your motivation strong is a good idea, a lot of this advice is not terribly scientific, and it can be modified to be more effective.

Let’s talk about the difference between rewards and reinforcement, why we need to be proud of reaching a goal, and what to do when you tend to cheat and get your prize early.

Video (from Twitch and YouTube):

To Write and Have Written: A Writer's Guide To The Business Side
To Write and Have Written: A Writer's Guide To The Business Side
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Rewards & Reinforcement – powered by Happy Scribe

Let’s get organized here.

All right, so it is Tuesday,it is November the

10th, this is basic math, I can do this.And yes, so we’re back on the regular

regularly scheduled program. Last week wasa little bit different because I did

the all day charity Lifestream,which was amazing.

I actually had a good time.

I did not break down and cry while I was

writing in front of the entireInternet watching me

create a rough draft live on the screen,

which is not how I like to do things, butI will stretch myself for a good cause.

And then we also had some fantastic

guests that you guys came to hang outand we had really good conversations

and we gave away some stuffand it was fantastic.

And the best part of it was that we raised

five hundred and seventy seven dollarsfor International Justice Mission

to fight traffickingand slavery and exploitation.

So that is awesome.

So thank you guys so much.

I really, really appreciate that.

All right, and so this week.

Sorry, I get getting my notesback up here this week.

I’m actually doing a topicthat was by request.

So again, please feel free to send yourrequests, my direction.

I’m happy to work it in into the

theme rotation because that’s the wholepoint of having a theme rotation.

But we’re going to talk about rewardsand reinforcement and how we can use those

to manage our writing and our careerdevelopment and making decisions.

And I think this is especially importantthis month because it’s NaNoWriMo

and a lot of people areworking on a specific word count.

And when you hit that slog, you know,

like your first week, you’re like,oh, yeah, I got this.

And usually about two,two and a half weeks.

And you just kind of like, oh.

There’s a lot of words here.

OK, so this is where we start

thinking about, OK,how can I motivate myself?

How can I keep going?

And there’s so much mythologyout there about using rewards.

And yeah, surprise, this is my day job,

so I’m happy to talk about itand talk about ways to do it better than

what a lot of the pop culturerecommendations are out there

that have walked by the science, but notreally taken the time to get to know it.


Seeker saying,that’s your classic NaNoWriMo

number is one thousand six hundred sixtyseven words a day is how many words a day

you need to at the end of the monthhave reached your 50000 words.

So that is, you know,it’s perfectly doable.

But you’re going to at some point.

You know, start to feel that a little bit.

So, yeah, yeah, some days are great.

Some days are, as Seeker says, not fun.


yeah and I’m in daily chat with some,you know, creative friends,

which is fantastic and really goodfor motivation and everything.

But like I think this week is when we all

kind of went, OK, it’s getting hardernow, and that’s that’s pretty normal.


All right, so Natalie says 20000 words is

consistently like being hitin the face with the door.


just going to assume that I’m interpretingthis in the same way that,

Like, you start and you’re like,OK, this is great.

I’ve got momentum.I’ve got momentum now.

OK.It’s like, you know, marathon runners talk

about hitting the wall at around20 miles, 20 miles, 20000 words.

It’s the same thing, I think.There you go.

So, OK, but let’s talk about.

This because, again,

I think a lot of the stuff that’s outthere in pop culture is close to

your it’s it’s close to the science,but it’s not as close as it could be.

And we can do better.

So Grace is waving.

Yes.Hi, Grace.

And yes, it is hard.

Yeah, it’s, not gonna lie.

There are there are daysI’m like, why, why?

Why do I think this is fun?

And that’s actually one of the thingswe’re going to talk about


Let me preface this by saying we arespecifically talking today

just about rewards and reinforcementfor things we want to do, like writing,

oh, oh my gosh, we’re nolonger having, I just saw on the chat.


that chat is still running our fundraiser.

So, hey, while you’re more than welcome tocontinue to donate, I’m going to hop over

and turn that off because that’s notsupposed to be running right now.

So I’m sorry.Give me just one second.

Make sure that gets shut down becausewe don’t need that chat going on.

Give me one second.

So sorry I got so excited.


we’re going to hope that we’re goingto hope that works, but again,

thank you so much for those fantasticdonations, because that was awesome.


“Quick, before we talk, do another

10 hour marathon.” I did not bring enoughcaffeine to do another 10 hours right now,

so sorry, guys, definitelygetting out earlier today.

All right.

So, yeah,we are talking specifically about

rewards and reinforcement for things thatwe already have an interest in doing.

In this case, writing,

we are not going to be talking about howto motivate ourselves to do things we

don’t want to do,like accounting and taxes

so that.

Is a perfectly valid topic,and it is there’s a lot of great stuff we

could talk about there, but it is toomuch to talk about in one session.

So we are just talking about rewards

and reinforcement for the things that wewant to be doing that are occasionally

we’re not motivated to do them or we hitthat part where,

darn it, this is not the fun part ofthe book or whatever the case might be.

So, OK, so first of all,

let’s talk about rewards versusreinforcement, because typically we tend

to use those words interchangeablyin common parlance.

Scientifically, they’revery different things.

And if you know the difference

between them, you can getyourself out of a lot of holes.

You don’t even have to getinto those holes to start with.

And it’s where I see breakdowns happena lot when people are talking about what

rewards don’t work,yeah, rewards don’t work.

I said, well, reinforcement doesn’t work.

Oh, no, reinforcement does work.

If it’s not working,it’s not reinforcement.

Most people will give methat huh? face at that point.

But let’s let’s break thisdown for just a little bit.

Reinforcement,by definition changes behavior.

If it is not changing behavior,it is not reinforcement.

So the phrase reinforcement doesn’twork to change behavior is.

And it’s a nonsense statement because it’s

like saying up can’t be up.That is the definition of reinforcement.

What it does mean is what I have thoughtwas reinforcement is not changing

behavior, therefore itis not reinforcement.

So it is a litmus test for if I havechosen good reinforcement,

because if I have chosen goodreinforcement, it’s changing behavior.

If it’s not changing behavior,

it doesn’t matter what I call it,it’s not reinforcing.

OK, so I’m going to be

a little pedantic about the differencebetween rewards and reinforcement,

because in practical outcome,there’s a huge difference.

And so much of what, “Ohrewards don’t work.

This is not a good system.”

And all of these things that you hear

are actually rooted in poor understandingof rewards versus reinforcement.

So let’s just start there and I’m goingto keep this pretty user-friendly.

I am not going to this is not going to be

a really high end technical lectureand there will not be a quiz at the end.

But honestly,thinking about the difference between

rewards and reinforcement cansolve a lot of problems.

So I just put that out there, so.Oh, nice.

Yes.So Natalie’s putting it in the chat

“impact is reinforcementversus intent is for reward.”

If I, if I.

If I am OK, let’s turn this around to me,because I know my preferences.

OK, so if ifsomebody wants to reward me for a job well

done and they buy me Super Bowltickets, I’m going to be like,

Yeah, I mean, that’s really expensive,I appreciate the intent,

but I’m not probably going to get superexcited about that and I’m probably not

going to change my behaviorto get those Super Bowl tickets,

because it’s just nota thing that floats my boat.

But there are other people who will change

their behavior a lot to getthose Super Bowl tickets.

So for me, you intendedit as a as as a reward.

That’s nice.I can maybe even recognize an intent,

but it didn’t actually motivate behaviorchange in me, so it’s not reinforcing.

So if that.

If that makes sense, great,

if it doesn’t, forget that example,just go with the actual definitions.

“Yeah, but if you payfor my dog sports entry fees…”


So if I take that for that Super Bowlticket and I exchange it for cash

on my local street corner, you know,I have something that is more reinforcing

because I can apply it to things that Iactually do find more motivating.

So, OK,

anyway, where all this is going is because

there is a tremendousamount of very confusing

pop culture science out there on why

rewards and positivereinforcement don’t work.

One of the ones that I hear about a lot,

fortunately less common today,but it was really big a few years ago.

It’s Alfie Kohn’s book Punished By Rewards,

which is an entire book on why

reinforcement is a terribleidea and why it doesn’t work.

As a professional, I read his book,

and I’m like, this is just a seriesof case studies on incredibly poorly done

reinforcement, like if you talked to anybody in behaviourism

for less than ten minutes,like we could have solved all of this,

but but then you wouldn’t havegotten a whole book out of it.

So I guess I see the motivation there.

And it’s what’s great is at the end

of the book he talks about, OK,so we know rewards don’t work.

We know positivereinforcement doesn’t work.

What does work?

Well, what if you let the people if youlet the learners choose something that’s

important to them and then they canthey can have that when they do?

But they’re choosing whatwhat actually matters to them.

I’m looking, I’m holding this book,in this last chapter.

And I’m like, yes, good.

That’s page one of how to reinforce.

So he

made an entire career outof misunderstanding how behavior works

and then recommendingwhat behavior people do.

So anyway, all of that is what I’m tryingto say, is that because there’s so much

out there and I’ve seen so many peoplereference that book or reference other

things that do that book,or that used that book, or like that.


and it’s just it just bogsthe whole thing down. So well.

The short version is when you see, OK,you’re a writer,

you’re working on your NaNo,you’re getting word count, here are

suggested rewards to use as youwork through your calendar:

That is just that.

They are suggested rewards.

They are not necessarily reinforcing.

Quite a lot of those suggested rewardswould actually slow down my own progress.

So please, please, please,

we’re going to we’re going to walkthrough how to do this properly.

So I’m really like trying to hold back

and not just go off on my on my technicalsoapbox here, but I want this to be very,

very user friendly.

But darn it, these are

basic things that frustrateme when I see them confused.

So one of the big problems that

that we get into trouble with when we’retrying to use rewards in this kind

of situation is the problemof intrinsic versus external


And so if it’s intrinsic reinforcement,it’s internal reinforcement.

I’m enjoying doing it.

That enjoyment is the reinforcementfor doing this activity.

And that’s ideal if you canget that problem solved.

OK, so if you are a runner

and you hit that runner’s high and itfeels good and you keep going great,

I don’t know what that’s like,but I’m told it exists.

OK, so so that’s when I’m writing and whenI’m in the flow and everything,

the words are just coming and I likethe story and everything’s working.

Well, that, that is its own reward.Right.

That is its own reinforcement.

That’s going to keep me going becauseit is inherently reinforcing.

Unfortunately,not all of life is inherently reinforcing

and not even all of writingis inherently reinforcing,

but it’s important to know the difference.

Now, let me start with this.

If you don’t getintrinsic reinforcement,

if you don’t getthat internal satisfaction from writing.

Why are you doing it?

And I’ll just throw that outthere like there’s a lot of

people who write becausethey feel like they should write.

And that’s.

OK, you know what,

there’s a lot of hobbies,there are a lot of hobbies that you can

get better results with faster returnson your time and be less frustrated.

So if you truly don’t enjoy writing,don’t write.

OK, I mean,

probably if you’re watching this video orhanging out on this podcast or whatever,

you know, yourname is probably not

Stephen King and you can probably haveanother profession other than writing.

And so if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

OK, like art is supposedto be good for you.

So, yes.

So Grace is

Grace’s got where I’m there, and she says “Ienjoy having written.”

That is actually the quotefrom which the name of this

show, I guess technically, To Write And Have Written comes from

it, which and I don’t I’mnot prepared for the quiz.

I don’t remember who said it,

but “I don’t enjoy writing,but I enjoy having written.”

OK, that’s where most of us are.


I enjoy having written is still gettingenjoyment out of the process,

and I know that at some point you dohit that flow where it’s awesome.

OK, and maybe you’re not there today.I feel that.

OK, but but at some pointthere is that flow.

Where I’m going isif you find yourself saying, “well,

I should do this” more than”I am enjoying doing this,”

just take a little assessment,decide, do you really want to do this?

Like, is this really your thing?

And some days, you know,it’s OK not to be your thing.

Sometimes it’s not going to be your thingbecause a major life issue happened.

There’s the obvious one, likepretty much every creative person I know

has had a decline in productivity in 2020,and that’s just because of reasons.

And that’s OK also.

I mean, I have a number of friendswho they experience a death in their

family and they couldn’twrite for six, 12, 18 months.

Then they got back into it.OK, you know what?

That’s a major life affecting experience.

Those things will affect how your howyour process goes, how your flow goes.

I’m notworried about that.

Right.I’m just looking at if you really just

like the idea of doing some sortof art but you hate making words.

Don’t do it.I can’t find something that you enjoy.

Art is supposed to be good for you.

This is supposed to be fun, OK.Oh, thank you.

Thank you, Joe, for jumpingin with Dorothy Parker.

“I hate writing.I love having written.”

I knew it was a quote from a famousand I just couldn’t pull that out.


so I should write.

So I’m going to write to relieve

the pressure of should be writing that istechnically negative reinforcement.

So here’s your behavior,behavior nerd talk for the moment,

negative reinforcement is, you aregoing to do this behavior to

get rid of the pressure, OK,

think of it that way, and it’s notreally how we enjoy living our lives

and sorry, let me finish the sentence,then I’ll get to get to the chat.

So that is

doing stuff to get rid of pressure ispretty typical adult life,

but it’s also kind of puts you inconstant survival mode.

It’s not how we do things that we enjoy.

It’s not going to produce our best workbecause what I do, the minimum necessary

to relieve the pressure, we’re not goingto do the most to get the most out of it.

All right.And so one that it really common example

for negative reinforcement and onethat I’m actually seeing a lot

this year and at this time of yearis going home for the holidays.

And how many people are struggling with,you know, oh, do I do I travel in 2020?

Do I get together with with family,

you know, for Thanksgivingor Christmas or whatever?


And how much, you know,

I need to, I need to do this becausethere’s going to be so much,

you know,so many phone calls and so much pressure

and so much guilt trip ifI don’t do this and — OK.

This is the problem.

Nobody should go home for the holidays

to to escape the pain of not going homefor holidays, right,

like going home for the holidaysshould be an enjoyable experience.

That’s the whole point of goinghome for the holidays.

When we apply that kind of guilt trip,we might get the behavior we want,

but we’re going to getthe minimum commitment.

We’re not going to getthe maximum engagement.

So negative reinforcement is not our best

bet for approaching this kind ofimmersive activity.


OK, so Grace asks, I’ve heard most people

can borrow from expected futuresatisfaction to use as motivation.

Is this true?

Because this doesn’tseem to happen that way.

For me, I’m going to say this has to dowith your history of reinforcement.

And we’re actually goingto talk more about this later.

But if you don’t have a reason to believe

in that future satisfaction, it’sextremely hard to borrow on that credit.

And that has everything to do with howthat is worked out in the past.

So we will.

I did put that in my notes,so we’ll get there.

But excellent question.


anyway, so where I’m going with thisnegative reinforcement thing is don’t

write a book or do NaNoWriMo or writea story or do whatever,

because it’s the least painful option,you’re just getting yourself into it.

“Oh, I wrote a book because I wouldn’t letmyself do anything I enjoyed more.”

You know, it’s a terrible,terrible bio, right?

There is a place for work ethic.

And you’ve heard me talk a lot about,you know, we don’t sit around and wait

for the magical story fairy to come downand bop us on the head and,

you know, and the muse strikes and wejust do everything and flow all the time.

That’s not how that works at all.

But if you truly don’t get joy outof the process, then Marie Kondo

that thing right out of your life. Likethis is art.

It’s cathartic.It’s fun.

It’s good for you shouldn’t be miserable.

So if you’re doing it for the money.

There are easier waysto make money, trust me.

So but.

At some point that internal joy is going

to fail, the magical story fairy isnot going to come out of the sky.

It’s going to be NaNoWriModay 28 and I’m behind.

You know, something is going to happen and

I need to get my nose into thegrindstone and and do this.

And that’s where having those external

reinforcement options canbe really, really helpful.

Internal reinforcement is always the best.If you have that.

If that’s available to youat that moment, great.

If it’s not.

Then go ahead and use the external

reinforcement and it is not a bad thing,it is still reinforcement.

OK, so


Sometimes the writing life has components

like we enjoy the writing or we enjoyhaving written,

but it comes with things like marketingand accounting and stuff that we don’t

like. I do not wake up in the morningand be like, oh,

I want to get a spreadsheet and dosome ads! Like that never has happened.

And I don’t expect itwill happen anytime soon.

So that does it.

But external reinforcement can besuper powerful to push you through.

So we talked when we did the NaNoWriMotalk a few weeks ago

and we talked about the value of havingthat cute little graph that goes up every

day and shows you with dots and barsand pictures how awesome you are doing.

That is external reinforcement.It is pixels.

It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s

so motivating when I see thosepixels going in the right direction.

OK, so external motivation, perfectlyvalid, can be extremely powerful.

So OK.

So this is where we’re going to get

into finally with all of that lead up,finally get into the how do we do it.

And where this actually startedwith, somebody sent me this quote

about using reinforcement.

This is not specifically about writing.

Her question was aboutusing it in writing and

oh, shoot, I put the link on where thiscame from, but I did not write down

the name of the author because I was justcopy pasting and I missed this

in my notes.But I’ll read the quote.

“You might have noticed that all

the rewards I’m recommendingaren’t all big ones.

That’s because studies like onein the journal Academy of Management,

Learning and Education show that smallrewards work even better than larger ones.

These little allowances,

like checking the last night score on yourfavorite sports team for motivation,

whereas large rewards like buyingan extravagant or expensive gift have

the opposite effecton motivation and performance.”

And that’s out of a journal.

And I’m sure it’s Academyof Management Learning.

Or sorry,the Academy of Management and Learning had

the study that I went and lookedat because I was like,

OK, I hear what you’re saying,but I don’t see why that’s the case.

So let’s go find this.

And so I looked it up and again,

I go back to man, if you guys would justtalk to somebody in behaviourism for,

like, just a few minutes,we could save so much time here, which is,

again, much of this has to dowith false comparisons.


In their study, they foundthat small frequent rewards

were more motivating and produced betterreinforcement or better performance

were more reinforcingthan big, extravagant rewards.

But I think as I was looking

at it and seeing some false comparisonslike small versus big,

and they weren’t taking into account allthe other factors that were there, so.

For one thing, if you’re doing smallrewards, and I’m using the word reward here

because that’s what they’re using and theymay or may not be reinforcing and I don’t

know, we’re just going to talkabout what they’re doing there.

But if I’m using small things,first of all, I’ve probably chosen them.

So they’re more likely to bereinforcements than rewards.

OK, but I want to check on that

sports scores, as their example was.

And I want to check in on socialmedia and I want to,

you know, just pick stuff.


I believe in reinforcement.

I’m sitting here on my desk

and so, when I get done with thisparagraph, I’m going to have a peanut

butter M&M or, you know,whatever the case may be.

Those are all things that aregoing to happen fairly frequently.

OK, I’m going to finish thisparagraph and have an M&M.

I’m going to finish this pageand check on social media.

I’m going to, you know,whatever the case may be.

The large rewards,if they’re talking about an extravagant

and expensive reward, those arenot going to happen very often.

That’s a finish the book, get yourself,you know, the thing, whatever.

And so we’re not lookingat small versus large here.

We’re also looking at a very,

very different rate of reinforcementor how often that’s coming in.

And I can tell you ahigher rate of reinforcement is way more

reinforcing than a lowerrate of reinforcement.

30 small things is so much betterfor reinforcement than one big one,

because you can build momentumand all kinds of things.

So the way I tell my clients this is fivepennies is worth more than a nickel.

OK, yes, technically they’re the same

buying power, but five pennies,OK, so much better than a nickel.

So that’s one thing.

They also don’t addresscompeting motivations.

So let’s say that I’m going to finishmy page and have some peanut butter

M&Ms and I have nothing there except

the guilt about the sugar,and I’ll deal with that later.

That’s future Laura’s problem.So I get that.

Or if I have a big expensive reward,I’m going to finish this

book and I’m going to buy myself a new TV.

OK, I’m just making stuff up here.

OK, a new TV is a significantly differentprocess than eating some M&Ms

and it’s going to cost significantlymore than those M&Ms.

And I now have to think, OK,I’m going to buy this TV.

I earned this TV,

but it’s expensive and I’muncomfortable spending that much money.

And those things are going to playinto the motivation just as much.

So it’s not purely a M&Msversus TV comparison.


other factors, you know,there’s other costs to that


and so there’s other coststhan to my behavior.

And Natalie just said what my next point was.

She said they’re usuallydelayed after you earn them.

Small ones are immediately accessible.

And my next thing was timely delivery.

OK, I finish this page,I get those M&Ms.

Now, they’re on my desk right now.Versus, I finish that book.

I think about the TV.

I finally convince myself to do it.I buy it.

It arrives a week later,you know, whatever.

So, you know, so those are

hugely different.

When we talk about timeliness

in reinforcement delivery,half a second can be a

very significant factor in howmuch that influences behavior.

So, yeah, put in the week’s difference.

That’s a lot of half seconds.

So it’s going to make a very bigdifference in how reinforcing it is.

Is it a reward?Probably.

Is it reinforcement?I don’t know.

OK, harder to say.

And so where I want to pullout some things to.

To consider here, so there’s the 300 peck

phenomenon that when researchers were

first studying, and we called 300 pecksbecause they were using

pigeons and they would put the pigeonsin basically a Skinner box.

So the pigeon has a button or a leverand it’s got a little feeder.

And we start with peck the button,

get a piece of grain,peck the button, get a piece of grain.

Now you have to press the button twice,

get a piece of grain,peck the button three times to get a piece

of grain, and you cansee where this is going.

And they wanted to see,

can you teach a pigeon to peck300 times for a piece of grain?

The answer is yes.

OK, absolutely happens.

It happens for several reasonsand it happens with several

several pieces of fallout,

which are very significant for us,applying this in our own lives.

The first is the pigeon.

It’s very important to notethe pigeon is in a Skinner box.

The pigeon hasdoes not have access to Netflix.

The pigeon does not haveaccess to social media.

Pigeon does not have accessto other books to read.

The pigeon is staringat blank walls and a button.

And so finally it’s going to peck

the button because there’snothing else to do.

Whereas if we ask ourselves,I want to peck three hundred times before

I get any kind of reinforcement,we do have all those other options

and those other sources of reinforcementthat we’re probably going to go

invest our time, energy in somethingthat pays out much sooner.

So that’s an importantfeature to remember.

The other thing is they found out

that even in that Skinner boxwhen researchers did this,

the once the pigeons started pecking,

it would just go and get those 300 pecks,you know, just go very,

very steadily until it finallygot to its reinforcement.

That was fine.

But the delays, you know,

if you’re doing peck treat, peck, treat,peck, treat, you’re pretty much

like a little piston, OK,your loop’s pretty clean there,

but when you’re doing 300 pecks,you’d get your grain and you

would do anything to putoff starting that again.

We had all kinds of pigeon procrastination

going on and that’s whenthe pigeons did not have Netflix.

OK, so you are.


I see that kind of delay and putting offbecause it’s just so much work to get

that single reinforcementagain, because it’s not about the size,

it doesn’t matter if they makeit a big reinforcer either.

It’s about the rate of reinforcement.

The rate of reinforcement is really,

really, really important to buildingthat steady, reliable behavior.


If you if you finally,finally knuckle down,

I think this is where you see peopleprocrastinate, procrastinate,

procrastinate, and then they get startedand they just plow through until they hit

the deadline or the endof the project or whatever.

And I think some of that isprobably coming out of that,

a lot of that is being driven because one,you’re seeing negative reinforcement.

OK, I’m going to do it to relievethe pressure and they weren’t getting

inherently reinforcedfor the project itself.

And then, two,

because all the reinforcement just comesat the end, that’s when the pressure is

relieved, OK, so they put offthe thing until they just can’t anymore

and then work through till they getto the end and then they’re not going

to start the next thing until theycan’t put it off anymore.

Natalie’s in the chat, “Today.

I learned I am a pigeon.”Yes.

OK, there is so much good and so muchembarrassment that comes out of behavior.



A friend told me.

That she has a hard time using

reinforcement for herself when she’sworking on a project because she says,

“I’ll think, OK, I want, I’ll buy myselfthis album or whatever the case may be

when I get X done, but then I just buy itanyway so I don’t have to work toward it.”

And so I laughed at the time and I’m like,

you kind of have to bethe adult in the room, OK?

There’s nobody to adult for you.

You have to do that for you.


That actually ties into this as well.

That’s telling me several things,

if I were to look at thatfrom a training perspective.

OK, let’s analyze what’s actuallygoing on behaviorally here.

She’s telling me that herrate of reinforcement is way too low.

OK, she doesn’t have any faith

that she will get to the reinforcementby working for it.

She’s going to have to work too longto get the thing that she wants.

So she’s going to tryto short circuit the system.

And she’s telling me that her reliability,her history of reinforcement is suspect


And my guess is there’s somewhere, oh,you’ll get this or I’ll get

this for myself — this doesn’tmean somebody else did this to you.

We do this to ourselves all the freakin’

time, which is, oh, I’ll dothis and then I’ll get that.

Well, now it’s time to get that.

But OK.

And we cheat.

And then later we don’t believeourselves and so we cheat.

So we’ve got nobody to blamebut ourselves for that.

So I’m talk about this because, again,

I see this happen a lot inand I catch myself doing it to myself,

which I should know better,and I see it in my friends all the time.

And just to say, be an honest banker if

you promise yourself, you know,if you get to this point, you will get X.

Then when you get to that point,you should get X.

And I don’t care if.

I don’t care if you want to raise the bar,

if you wantto move the finish line.

Don’t lie to yourself, OK,

don’t downplay an achievement ifyou actually worked toward it.

Oh, I’m going to dothis when I get 2000 words today.

I’m going to, you know.”Well, I got to 2000 words.

OK, you know what?

That’s not really a lot,like other people do that all the time.

So I probably should get to 3000 before….”

No, no, that’s cheating.

OK, that is lying to yourself.

That’s being a jerk.

Would you do that to your friend?

Would you would you yank the rug out?

Would you move the finishline for your friend?

Then do not do that to yourself,

because what you’re doing there is you’recreating that distrust in your own

reinforcement system and you’re ruiningyour own reinforcement history.

And that’s going to come back for you.

And I have a friend who I willspeak about very obliquely because I did

not ask her if I could share her story,but if I am not going to identify her.

But she did a huge, amazing thing.

A massive project, took

more than a year to finish this

awesome thing,and she got done and she’s like,

“this is awesome, but I’m not reallycounting it done until X happens.

You know, we wrap,we wrap it and this happens.”

I’m like, OK, that’s cool.That makes sense,

because that’s going to be like the final,you know, the cherry on the top that,

you know, signifies the officialclosure of this project.


And X happened and she’s like,OK, yeah, that was cool.

But really Y needs to happen before….OK, all right.

Y good.Y is a thing.

And then she’s like,ok, ok, that was good.

That good.

But really I’m not going to actuallycounted as done until you know… And she

listed another thingand I said, OK, hold on.

What’s actually going on here?

Because I’ve heard you move the finishline three times in my own hearing.

So what’s actually, why don’tyou let yourself finish this?

And she kind of stopped and she’s like,oh, that’s a really good question.

It’s like, OK, that’s what.

You work that out on your own,I don’t need to work that out for you,

but but why won’t you letyourself have this win?

OK, so

and I know I absolutely know

that she would not have yanked the finish line out from under me.

Right.So don’t do that to yourself either.

Let yourself believein your own reliability.

OK, be an honest banker.

Go so.

Yes, so I think if you’re if you’re

unable to hold out for the reinforcement,it might be several things going on there.

But one of them is definitely make sure

that your reinforcement is comingfrequently enough,

that you believe you can reach itand make sure that you aren’t in the habit

of taking away from yourselfonce you’ve actually earned it.

So that’s all that I canaddress over the Internet.


so let’s do OK, rate of reinforcement,

I mentioned earlier, is how often arethose reinforcers actually coming.

Not necessarily rewards,but actual reinforcers.

How often are theycoming for your behavior?

If you are getting,

if you’re in that flow and if

you’re getting that internal reinforcementat the time, you are constantly being

reinforced because you’re in you’rein the zone and it’s awesome.

And waiting for reinforcementtakes care of itself.

Another reason why it isso awesome to be in flow.

If you’re relying on externalreinforcement, you actually have to think

about how often your rate of reinforcementis, how often your reinforcements come.

You have to think aboutthat rate of reinforcement.

If you are in the flow,

do not interrupt the flowto impose external reinforcement.

And this is something that,again, I think probably

was part of the problem.

If we go back to Kohn’s book and he’s

describing, oh, gosh,it’s been forever since I read it.

But he was describing trying to teachkids to prefer certain kinds of markers.

So when they would draw with certain kinds

of markers,the researchers would, you know,

give the kids, you know,stickers or external rewards.

But then ultimately,

the kids actually preferred another kindof marker. Like, of course, like reading

this is so obvious to me.

You know, I’m a kid.

I’m having a great time drawing a picture.

And you keep stopping me drawing

my picture to give me stuffthat’s not related to my picture.

But when I draw with these other set

of markers, you leave me alone and I getto do the thing that I wanted to do.

Like, this is obvious, right?

And I don’t interrupt the flow.That’s, we call that punishment.

All right.So if you’ve got that internal

reinforcement going, just justwallow in it and glory in it.

And that’s fine.It’s there.

But when you need that external

reinforcement, by all means,give it to yourself, OK?

Because nobody should have to do taxeswithout some form of reinforcement.

Not even kidding.I put on my really good motivating music

and I get my chocolate and that’s howI do my accounting, which actually

December 1st,

make sure you’re here,because we’re going to have Chris Morris,

who is fantastic here to help us with ouraccounting and bring your chocolate.

It’s fine.And but Chris is great.

And I asked him months ago to comeand do this in December with us.

So please, please be here for that.

So when you need that external

reinforcement, make sure that you dogive yourself a fairly high rate.

Now, how quickly that needs to come,how often you need to get that with those

intervals need to be that’sincredibly subjective.

And if it’s dealing with making ads or if

it’s working out my taxes,those need to come pretty darn fast.

And if it’s something like

I really need to get this

this visual ad designed or I

need to write back cover copy,those are things I enjoy more.

I’m going to get, you know,

further without having towrestle with the chocolate bar.


just that’s one of those, know yourself.

That’s the difference betweenrewards and reinforcement.

Know what actually changes your behaviorand do it at the interval that you need.

OK, so, yeah,this all comes down to is you need to be

aware of what is reinforcing to youat that time that can completely change

from week to week, from dayto day from minute to minute.

And so you just need to be awareof what is reinforcing at that time.

And if you’re thinking, well, like Laura,

you say the stuff is really simple,but it sounds really complicated.

Yes, it is really simpleand really complicated.

And that’s why people like me have a job.


it’s great.

So, OK, um,

so when I say, I mentioned earlier,a lot of times you’ll get into writing

sites, or NaNoWriMo inspirationaltalks or whatever, and they’ll give a list

of suggestions for reinforcement,for positive reinforcement.

They usually call them rewards,whatever I’m going to say.

OK, now here’s my–

This list of suggested rewards are

going to say, here’s my list ofsuggestions for positive reinforcement.

First item on the list:it’s literally anything.

OK, I’m going to modify that a little bit,

that is legal and safe, OK, don’t getin trouble and make me your excuse.

But if.

It can be anything that motivatesyou to do the thing.

It can be anything that helpsyou to change your behavior.

So don’t limit yourself

to the traditional, you know, oh,I’ll get to the end of the chapter

and I’ll buy myself a new album or I’llget to the end of the book and I’ll,

you know, buy myselfa new outfit or whatever

stuff that I see listed.

It can be little things.

These can be very tinythings that happen a lot.

And,you know, OK, I’m going to finish this

paragraph and I’m goingto put on my favorite song.

Like small things.

It’s totally fine.

Positive reinforcementis incredibly personal.

It’s incredibly variable.

It will change from momentto moment and that is fine.

Make sure you give yourself a (hello dog)

make sure you give yourselfboth small and larger reinforcers.

Just make sure that your smaller ones arecoming frequently enough to be useful.

And then if you want to use some larger

ones to celebrate, more power to you,there’s nothing wrong with larger ones.

The problem is only usinglarge ones spaced out.

Just so again, my, my,

my underscore here is going to bekeep the rate of reinforcement high.

Rate of reinforcement is your big

thing to look at asyou’re working on this.



if you remembera few months back — and if anybody

has questions or commentsto throw in the chat,

now is the time — we gaveyou the sneak preview.


if you remember how some time back we hadmarketing homework back before November.

So like three years agoin 2020 time


And so we had several,

several layers of marketing homeworkto work through. Next week,

we’re going to take that and we’regoing to put into spreadsheets.

So writers traditionally,

spreadsheets are an enemy like

if this were an RPG that wouldbe like an enemy class.

So writers really just, wedon’t do spreadsheets.

We don’t do spreadsheets.

But spreadsheets can actually be

incredibly helpful as we’rearranging our marketing.

They’re super nice for things like

accounting and taxes and working outyour ads and all sorts of things.

And we probably want to be at leastpassingly familiar with spreadsheets

before we see Chrisabout accounting in December.

So next week,

our very own Seeker is going to be ourguest here and walking us through

spreadsheets and how you,as a writer who works with words,

can meet a spreadsheet and stillcome out on the other side.

So, OK, and now I’m going to checkthe chat here one second.

OK, that’s a good question, hold on.


So the question is

advice on how to transitionfrom reinforcement back to the next loop

of work, “novelty seeking isreally reinforcing for me.

So I use social media for checkinga lot and will work for it.”


We’ll get you a membershipcard and a T-shirt.

I think that’s all of us.

“But then I struggle to transition back.

I can use a timer,but the task interruption at the end feels

intensely aversive and itbuilds frustration quickly.

But I wasn’t done.”I feel that.

“So should that be savedfor an end of session reinforcement?”

So this is this is a really good,really, really good question because.

Well, this is me too.

So here’s what I do.

Like if I go to give myselfa social media break, which

has been has been interesting this yearbecause you’re kind of taking

a chance,I guess is this going to be reinforcing or

it’s going to be reallypunishing when I get there?

But if I give myself a social

media break, I will frequently usemy notifications as my built in

limitation to to that,

so instead of I’m going to go to Instagramand I’m going to scroll through every

freakin new post on Instagram,which I could be there for quite a while.

It might be something like,I’m going to go,

I’ll use Facebook because they havea really obvious notification system.

I’m going to go to Facebook.I have seven notifications.

I’m going to check those seven thingsand then I’m going to be done.

I’ll come back and get back to work againon my next chapter.

Whatever the the loop is,

I’m kind of with youfor people who can use a timer and it

doesn’t feel interrupting or aversivetimers are great for that sort of thing.

For me, I’m basically using the socialmedia app itself as my timer.

OK, I have seven notifications.

I’m going to go through those seven now.I’m done.

By the time I get the next chapter done,

I will have a new setof notifications to go through.

So that’s one option to do it.

The other is you could say, OK,

I’m going to check thisthread on the forum

and then I’ll come back and I’ll checkthe next new thread on the forum.

And, you know, again,just use use the structure of the platform

itself to parcel out what is your dosefor this for this session.

And so there’s probablya number of ways to do that.

I would say just find the one that feelsthe most natural and sustainable for you

and then, yeah, for your end of session.

It’s like we that’s where I get to go

to the endless scroll version, you know,that’s where I go to Instagram or Tumblr

or something that’s just going to scrollfor days and constantly reload.

Interestingly,there’s quite a lot of research, and we

probably don’t have time to gointo this in huge detail.

But there’s so much research onsocial media creating anxiety

beyond the obvious reasons.

But it has to do with thingslike endless scrolling.

So if you use something and if you go

to a forum and you’ve got a specificthread and it runs until it runs out

of posts on that threat and it stops,you have completed it.

But if you go to Instagram or Tumblr orany of the ones that just will refresh

continuously and you can’t getto the bottom, there is no end point.

And it actually contributes to that

constant low gradebackground radiation that

was an issue even before this year.

And that really is a tiewith that and anxiety.

And so you can actually look atwhat social media platforms and how people

consume that social mediaand get that tie to

how anxious they are, so, yeah, and

along with that,

our excuse me, our national addiction toinstant messaging as opposed to email and

the massive generational difference

in that and the corresponding differencein anxiety levels, because

there’s just so much interestingreading that’s out there on that.

I’m not going to gointo that in huge detail, but.

Letting go of instant messaging and

embracing things that don’t

have a quick turnaround time,you’re not expected to reply quickly.

You don’t expect a quick reply.

Those kinds of things can be really,really good for your brain.

So, OK.

Oh, wow.So these are tools I didn’t even know

existed, so Natalie’s saying she uses newsfeed eradicators to cut off access

to the news feed on desktop and stayfocused to limit access to all

of Facebook, including notificationsfor short periods of time there.

I know there’s some

apps that will,well, turn off your notifications.

So those are good.

Yeah, all the … My mobile phone,which is always, always, always with me.

But I have email notifications turned off.

I have Facebook notifications turned off.

The Facebook app is notinstalled on my phone.

There’s a lot of things that I do

to protect not only for securityreasons, but also just for,

you know, just peace of mind reasons.

If I had email and Facebook notifications

on, I would becrazy trying to keep up with that.

So.So they’re not on.

OK, so Grace says, “I’m such a rebel that I often

go for the reward before I should becausethere are literally no consequences.”


So, yeah,there are there are no consequences except

then you feel guilty about it laterbecause you’re like, oh, but I cheated.

But I would say I’d go back to as

my first guess is, you’re settingyour reinforcers too far apart.

You don’t believe that you canachieve it in a timely manner.

So you cheat.

And if you make it shorter,give yourself smaller rewards more often,

I would say reinforcers.But again, I’m trying to balance between

the popular parlanceand the thing.

So but give yourself.

More opportunities to get it right

and then you’ll find that when you trustyourself,

you have that history of reinforcementand you know that you’ll get them.

It’s much, much easier to put stuffat the end and work our way toward it

because, you know, you will get there andyou don’t have any reason to jump ahead.

So there you go.

So I hope that makes sense.

So I knew someone

who would at the end of Thanksgiving,I’m sorry, at the end of Halloween,

she’d go out and bulk up on the Halloweencandy, you know,

buy all the clearance sales,which I think is every writer, of course,

for NaNoWriMo.

But she would actually like pull outa bunch of small candies like M&Ms or

Skittles or little things and putthem down the side of her notebook.

And she was doingwriting by hand.

And then so she would fill in.

And then when she reached that candy,

she get to eat it and then she wouldkeep going until she gets a candy.

And I’m 100 percent surethat sometimes her writing got larger.

I’m sure that happened.But it didn’t matter.

She still got to that point.Right.

So and they were all lined up.

She could see them right there.

She just had to keep going to them.

And you know what?

That’s not a bad system.

You know, if it works, it’s great.

And so find find the onethat works for you.

And I would say just most people,because we as a society are so conditioned

to thinking about rewards insteadof reinforcement, we tend to

put things too far out,

and we’re also, as a society, incrediblygood at moving the finish line.

And I know so many friends who will belike, “OK, yes, I did this thing. Well,

Now I shouldn’t be proud of the thing.

And I probably need to dosomething else before I can–“

No, no, you did the thing.

OK, treat yourself like youwould treat your friend.

So OK.

Grace says she doesn’t trust yourself.

So put the candy down there,

down the notebook side or whatever it isthat you’re doing,

and then take tape, a little sellotape,and put it over the top of them so

that you can’t justgrab them as they go.

You have to consciously make a decision.

Honestly, a lot of it is about makingmaking conscious decisions.

My bag of M&Ms hasbeen on here on this desk

for several days, but I realized I washitting them a little bit too hard.

So I moved the bag to the farside of the desk. Still here.

I can still have it when I want it.

But because I can’t grab it mindlessly,because I have to make a conscious

decision to reach for it,I was like, stop, OK, is this a decision?

Which decision do I want to make?

I don’t it’s fine.

I can decide either direction.

I just have to make a decisionrather than mindlessly grabbing.

And and that was enough that I hadn’t hadM&Ms for several days and then I’m

going to hit them againreal darn hard tonight.

So that’s how that goes.

OK, yeah.

Natalie’s done cereal in a Pet Tutor,

or Treat and Train for yourself,that is awesome.

I have not, I have not done that.

I do know someone who put in M&Msin a dispenser for a child

and did variable or variablerates of reinforcement that way.

But, yeah, you can I would say,you know, here’s the thing.

If it works, it works.

And for those of you who don’t live inthe animal dog behavior world,

Pet Tutors, Treat and Trains are eithertimed or remote operated dispensers.

So you can load it up and thendrop out stuff individually.

And it is totally legitto put M&Ms in one.

Nothing wrong with that.

Oh, OK, great.

So future topic, suggestion or request,

setting up time to write environmentalcues and how to keep them salient.

That is a great question.

So we might talk about that in the future.

I will look at that wherethat could fit in so.

Yes, so next time, spreadsheets,so your homework is to find where you keep

your spreadsheets, and that can be if youown Microsoft Office, you have Excel.

Great.Figure out how to open it.

Don’t do anything elsewith it if you don’t.

But you have Google sheets or.

I think OpenOffice is still a thing,

but it’s OpenOffice I have troublerecommending wholeheartedly,

so Google Sheets might be your best not-Microsoft option, something like that.

Whatever you’ve got,that is your spreadsheet option.

Bring it because we will dolive work, I think, next week.

So it’ll be fun.

And then after that, we have ourCreate-in special NaNoWriMo edition.

And then after that we have Chris Morris,who is a CPA who will be talking us

through how to do accounting withoutcrying, which is a good topic.

So.Oh, “yay, spreadsheets.

I love spreadsheets.”OK, Natalie, you’re excused.

This is for people who don’t lovespreadsheets, but you can come anyway.

But yeah,this is this is for people who are like,

oh, the spreadsheet will eat me, becausethat’s where I started with spreadsheets.

Honestly, I think that’s where mostwriters start with spreadsheets.

But but they are incredibly goodfor tracking so many things or.

They’re really, really good for things

that aren’t even to do with numbers,but they just organized really well

and I found myself using spreadsheetslike routinely for that.

And that’s crazy.But yeah, OK, so that is it.

That’s what I have for this week.

Thank you guys so muchfor coming and hanging out.

And yeah, felt absolutelyfree to send me more ideas.

And also specifically I’m goingto say, for the Learn With Me s

tell me what you guys want to learn about.

You know, tell me, you know,

help me to track downthe things that you’re interested in.

I want to find experts that areactually useful to you guys.

So, yes, I guess so.Yeah.

Nathalie’s like, “it has lines that say youdid the thing, upward green lines!”

It does a great job makingbeautiful motivating graphs.

This is so true.So true.

And I will do so many thingsfor a motivating graph.

So, yeah.

But then also they’re really good

for like, oh I have all these words Ineed to write down and keep track of.

And I couldn’t draw lots of columns orkeep rewriting them or I can throw them

in a spreadsheet and make themall magically do it themselves.

It’s great.OK,

ok, so that is it.

Thank you guys a lot.Thank you guys a much.

That was me.Yeah, that was good.

I word, I word professionally.

So that is what I’ve got.

And I will see you all nextTuesday for spreadsheets.

Take care.

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