Since its beginning, I have wanted “Slouch to 5k” to function as some kind of port in a storm where our creativity is protected from the bewildering developments swirling around us. As I write this, in the UK (and in many other countries), the storm rages as strongly as ever and brings with it much grief and anger and uncertainty. I will not say more about this – I want us to focus here on that safe harbour.
This week’s activity is very simple and very powerful. Some of you will be using this tactic already. Good. If so, please feel permission today to do more of it or make something special of it this week.
Some of you will resist the tactic strongly or see it as unnecessary – and it is those people who will actually receive the greatest benefit from embracing it.
The invitation is to treat yourself to some kind of reward. There are three options:
(1) It can be in return for working on your writing – you can, if you prefer, strike a deal with yourself that this reward is permitted if you complete [x] regarding your writing project this week.
Or (2) it can be in return for having worked on your writing already in the past few weeks – a celebration of what you have accomplished to date. Maybe you have made a small amount of progress and you want to acknowledge that.
Or finally (3) the reward can be permitted free of any terms and conditions – because it is so hard just to keep going these days, managing domestic duties, caring for / worrying about loved ones, showing up to countless Zoom calls, dealing with work responsibilities, childcare, dealing with financial insecurity, staying healthy, the list goes on and on. Sometimes just keeping going with daily life is the miracle. And we don’t reward ourselves often enough for just doing that.
If it helps you to call this activity “The Celebration” rather than “The Reward” then please go right ahead. Celebration is really the point.
The reward/celebration could be any kind of treat – but it should be enough to get you beyond the comfort zone of the routine treats you already allow yourself. It might be a picnic in a park if you are able to get outdoors, buying a beautiful edition of a book by a favourite author, listening to a symphony in the bath for an hour, treating yourself to some culture (whatever can still be experienced during lockdown), investing in beautiful new stationery, ordering a takeaway from your favourite local restaurant, buying those shoes you’ve been coveting online, allowing yourself to lie in for an extra couple of hours or nap in the middle of the day, savouring cake after lunch when you don’t normally permit yourself any dessert, pausing daily before your morning starts to drink tea slowly and listen to the birdsong, or sparing yourself enough time to watch the sunset fall during the last hour of daylight. Rather than involving instant gratification it should be something you can savour. And the reward doesn’t have to involve spending money.
Conduct whatever negotiations are necessary with partners, family or other people around you to ensure that the conditions are available for you to experience this treat. If your treat/reward/celebration involves aspects of ritual or ceremony or “feast” (in the metaphorical sense) then all the better. See here for an interesting and provocative article on the latter.
As mentioned, if it helps you to tie this reward to some kind of deal – “if I write for [x] hours/words this week, I will allow myself [y]”, then feel free to do so. This is often how the tactic of the reward becomes most powerful for many people, and how we feel most comfortable with experiencing it. Remember though how powerful it is to look back at what has been accomplished to date and say yes, I already deserve to celebrate those small milestones.
Remember that this reward should be significant enough to go somewhat beyond or “outside” your usual routine of treats you permit yourself. If you feel indulgent or even initially slightly guilty at the thought of allowing yourself this reward, then you are onto something. And if you want to give yourself multiple rewards this week, be my guest.
Lastly, remember too that if you have already got through the past several weeks, in the midst of everything new and anxiety-provoking that is happening, then that is enough to deserve giving yourself a reward.
And if you do, you will feel lifted – and in better sprits for writing at a later date.