Bribe Yourself to be Creative?

by Barbara Martin

in Motivation & Inspiration

I just read the saddest thing, a post at Men with Pens about “how to bribe yourself to do nasty things,” meaning all the things you don’t want to do as a freelancer. Things like finish an ebook, finish a press release, make cold calls, write a blog post.

Apparently, we should reward ourselves with a jelly bean per call, or a restaurant meal with a friend, or a new pair of boots. And I’m thinking oh how horribly sad this is. Just, sad.

When you do whatever it is you do as your creative thing, do you reward yourself afterwards? Or is the doing adequate reward in itself? Are there parts you do willingly, easily, painlessly and then other parts that are hard?

Do you force yourself to create? Is creating something that can be forced? Can your creativity be bribed? Bought? Sold?

My whole body is just saying no, no, nooooooooo. Surely it’s intrinsic? Sure it can be hard sometimes but…bribability?

Bribes make me think of trained seals. Tossed bones.

Is it the term bribes or idea of little rewards that bothers me? What motivates us? Just, ew. Wandering off now to mull that over some more.

ps Won’t you sign up for the ambitious newsletter thing I’m putting together? The form is over there —->


James Chartrand - Men with Pens September 10, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Hey Barbara,

Thanks for your thoughts on our post, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to discuss them with you.

I think there may be some misunderstanding of the point of the post. Taylor wasn’t saying we should bribe ourselves to do what we love, which is typically to write and be creative.

But, when you run a copywriting, freelancing or other type of service business, there inevitably comes all sorts of unpleasant tasks that writers *don’t* enjoy doing. Bookkeeping, for example. Client negotiations. Advertising. Marketing campaigns.

Likewise, the equestrian may not enjoy cleaning tack. The pilot might not enjoy cleaning his cabin. The fisherman may not like loading a boat into the water.

People always enjoy doing what they love. But doing what they love typically involves other tasks that aren’t so much fun.

So when Taylor suggested bribing oneself to do the nasty stuff, she certainly wasn’t referring to being creative, writing or enjoying the things you do in life. She was talking about the business-sided stuff that comes along with writing as a career.

Which, personally, I love. :)



PS. No subscribe to comments, so I’ll have to try to check back here in a few days.

Grace September 10, 2009 at 4:52 pm

It’s funny – I hear that from some of my clients: that even though they love their business, there are aspects of it that they don’t love and have to force themselves to do.

In the long run, though, whether it’s by bribing/rewarding yourself or strict discipline, I’m not sure it works. I think it’s a whole lot more effective to find creative ways to make whatever it is more enjoyable. Sometimes that means putting better systems in place. Sometimes it means asking if the thing in question really needs to be done at all. You’d be amazed how often something that seems essential can actually be set aside, or so completely transformed that it might as well be a wholly different task. Sometimes there are ways to trade off tasks with another person – a friend or a business partner – so you each get to do what you enjoy.

I have my business because I’m absolutely in love with what I do. For me, that makes all the things I do a labour of love, whether it’s bookkeeping or networking (I’m a confirmed introvert!) or, well, whatever there is to do!

Maybe I’m weird? :)

Deb Owen September 10, 2009 at 8:57 pm

There are parts to running a creative business that most creative people don’t love. A lot of parts, actually. Like accounting and planning and marketing and so on.

Even then, writers who love to write, might absolutely detest copywriting. (Me! Me! I’m raising my hand here! 😉 )

Different things work for different people in working through this. Some people can just suck it up. Some people remind themselves it’s a part of the ‘bigger dream’. Some people, though, need rewards. It’s not as fun as intrinsic motivation, but what motivates people differs and it’s finding what works for them to get through that other not-so-fun stuff where people sometimes need help.

All the best!

Cairene September 11, 2009 at 8:17 am

I *so* second Grace (you’re not weird, honey) > find creative ways to make doing that stuff more enjoyable (um, you are *creative* after all, this is well within your ability to do).

Remember how it is all connected to and supports doing that thing you love. It’s all a package anyway. It’s pretty tricky to hate a part yet be successful with the whole.

What we’ve found in Bite the Candy is the *reward* (bribe) is in finishing the thing. But there is also a need for *acknowledgment* (a treat in honor of doing that hard thing that has some recovery built into it – there is a difference). Using the treat as a bribe doesn’t work for a lot of people – it doesn’t go deep enough to change behavior, let alone shift the yuck. And a reward/punishment mindset is fear based – which is hard to sustain in the long run, and doesn’t shift the yuck either. In fact, I would argue it potentially adds to the resentment of the task: “I hate bookkeeping so much, I’ll *never* get those boots!”

I’m not saying you should love everything equally. That’s hardly realistic. Sometimes the best you can do is reach neutrality. And I’m not saying you can’t make it a game – I’m all for going Mary Poppins on yourself (and perhaps this is how Mens with Pens sees the bribery). I’m just wondering why one would choose to set themselves up to do “nasty” things in this way when a reframe of the task would do away with the need for bribery in the first place.

Wow. What an interesting discussion! -Cairene

Grace September 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I *so* second Cairene! :) You’re right on with the added-resentment thing. Which, actually, leads to a whole nother interesting discussion about setting goals… to me, they’re a HUGE set-up for frustration, resentment, and feelings of failure.

But that is a bit weird by most people’s standards. (With appreciation for Cairene’s reassurance that I’m not weird…!)

Barbara Martin September 17, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Such wonderful depth of commentary here, thank you all!

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