Years ago I told my young sons they couldn’t watch the Bears or the Cubs or the Bulls until their homework was done. I knew from experience that if you put off the work, it has a habit of not getting done at all.
Playing outside is not as much fun with chores or homework hanging over your head. But raking leaves or cleaning the garage or doing the dishes is not so bad when you’re looking forward to fun.
Schedule your play
Writers, too, need to work before we play, but we must make time for play. I never feel more stress than when I’m on the home stretch of a manuscript and can no longer schedule an hour or two of downtime.
I motivated myself to get my work done every day by reminding myself of the payoff: playing with my boys, having dinner with the family, and spending time with Dianna. Those were the rewards for doing my research or getting a chapter done.
Can you postpone reward?
Psychologists say a sign of mental health is one’s ability to delay gratification.
We are born wanting what we want when we want it. We scream for milk, we scream for attention, we scream for toys, we scream to be changed. When we get that bottle, we empty it right away, and if it’s not enough, we scream for more.
When we were preschoolers and we got a cupcake, what did we do with it? Did we eat the drier cake and save the frosting for the last few bites? No, we licked that tasty stuff right off the top and then lost interest in the dry cake.
If you’ve been working all year to hone your craft, it’s time for a reward. Consider our annual Writing for the Soul conference next February at the beautiful Grand Hyatt Hotel in Denver. Visit our website for details (you won’t believe the lineup—hint, we start with Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz) or call toll-free 866.495.5177.
Work before you play, meet your writing goals first, but remember to take those well-earned breaks.
Jerry B. Jenkins is the author of more than 175 books, with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series. His latest release is The Betrayal, the second in a Chicago-based cop novel trilogy called The Precinct Eleven Novels. The first was The Brotherhood. Visit him online.