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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Wanna Bet?

By Rosanne Bane

In my Writing Habit class, I invite students to “bet” on themselves each week. If they want to bet, they put a buck in an envelope and write their commitment for what they’re going to do that week: so many days of creative play (aka Process), so many days of this kind of Self-care, so many days of Product Time where they show up for their writing for at least 10 or 15 magic minutes.

The next week, the students who’ve done what they said they’d do, get applause from everyone in class, win the “bet” and get a prize. The prizes are all worth about a buck: there’s crayons, modeling clay, notebooks, journals, toys, candy, pens, even $1 gold coins.

I tell students “Whether you bet or not is entirely up to you, but if you’re not willing to bet at least a buck that you can meet your commitments for the week, you need to scale back your commitments.” That observation applies to all writers.

I’m always delighted at the pride students take in doing what they said they did. And I suppose I should be used to it, but I’m always delighted at how much fun they have in claiming their prizes – let’s face it, these are pretty silly prizes. Students could just go out and buy them for the buck they put in the envelope.

But these aren’t just silly prizes, they’re rewards. The part of your brain that releases dopamine and acetylocholine doesn’t care how much a reward costs. A box of crayons or a Rolex watch, either way, your brain seals the memory that it feels good to do what you say you’re going to do and that it’s satisfying to be a writer. (And no, I’m not giving away Rolex watches in any classes in the near future.)

My intention is that every time my students use the crayons or the notebook or look at a growing pile of gold dollar coins, they remember the joy of reporting to the class “I did it! I honored my commitments to Process, Self-Care and Product Time!” I hope the satisfaction of the entire class applauding their success and the gratification of learning they can trust themselves encourages them to keep betting on themselves as writers.

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5 Comments on “Wanna Bet?”

  1. Erick Reinikka January 23, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    I have to admit that I have not been real consistent with rewarding myself when I meet my goal. And I’ve felt a little drop off in motivation or increase in resistance. Do you think there could be a correlation?


    • rosannebane January 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

      Erick, there’s the scientific way to find out: Keep track of how you feel about your wirint for another couple of days without rewards, then keep track of how you feel about your writing with rewards for a couple of weeks. Please let me know what you find out.


  2. 'Ailina January 22, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Another brilliant concept. Will apply this to my writing, and also borrow your technique to use with my own kids.


  3. ritchie alter January 22, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    Rosanne, thank you for taking the time to give me an input on my writer’s block piece. That is so nice of you to help a total stranger. Thanks!



    • rosannebane January 22, 2010 at 10:30 am #

      You’re most welcome Ritchie. Please keep me posted on how your piece turns out.


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