In the week right before Thanksgiving, tragedy struck at our house.

Our fifteen-month-old lost the remote to the satellite box. The husband was furious! How could this happen? Surely it’s got to be somewhere. Just not anywhere we could think to look, apparently.

But sometimes coincidence shows you possibilities you might not have otherwise seen, and we decided that — in light of the four huge CPA tests for which Hubby is currently studying — the disappearance of the remote might be an omen. It was time to cancel our TV subscription . . . just until he passes the CPA.

A few weeks later, at the company Christmas party, we were asked to answer a prompt about what we’d do if we won a million dollars. “Live in Italy,” we both said, laughing at the impossibility of the dream.

It was fun to answer the what-if fantasy, to imagine how we’d spend an outrageous sum of money. On the other hand, with the suspended satellite subscription, I realized something even better: fantasizing about rewards that aren’t so outrageous or impossible.

And I began to muse with Hubby, “Okay, if you get ‘cable’ back when you pass your test, what do I get if I sell a manuscript?”

The only trouble was that I didn’t have an answer. It didn’t come as immediately as our million-dollar plan. This was real. I had to put some thought into it!

About once a week I’d try an idea out loud, telling Hubby, “I’ve got it! When I sell my manuscript, we’ll go to Hawaii.” But nothing ever quite stuck.

Over Christmas, my sister had us play a holiday version of Scattergories, and one of the prompts became “Gifts that keep on giving.” I thought, well, “cable” keeps on giving, month after month. Hawaii would be awesome, but it would be a one-time thing. I wanted to think of a reward more like Hubby’s, that I would enjoy for a long time to come and would be a tribute to having met my goal.

My mom once told me that when my great-grandmother passed away and left money to each of her four sons, three of them used the money to pay off bills and debts and such, but my grandpa didn’t want to do that. He wanted to put his share of the money into something that would always remind him of his mother. And so he used the three thousand dollars to refurbish a Steinway grand piano.

That piano is now a legacy of its own. It’s the focal point of my grandparents’ living room, the piece of furniture around which we gathered to sing Christmas carols and let each of the grandchildren play the songs they’d practiced for that Christmas Eve recital all of my growing-up years. Because my great-grandmother insisted that her four sons learned to play the piano, and because my grandfather continued that tradition with his kids, as did my mom with us, I play the piano, and so will my kids.

Last summer I wrote a post about how I’d finally discovered my main character’s main hobby/interest. I figured it out when I stumbled across the old Pentax camera my dad gave me, which was his growing up. I haven’t used it ever since film became so obsolete, and I was thrilled to discover that you can still attach those old lenses onto a new DSLR body.

The only trouble is the price tag on those DSLR bodies.

But today I’ve figured out what I want my payoff to be. If I sell this manuscript, a DSLR body seems like a pretty fitting compensation: a tribute to my main character, my dad, even my grandpa in a way — and one that’ll keep on giving.

As I write this, I’m thinking how sad I am that I don’t have photos of my grandfather’s piano — especially not any that would do it justice. My iPhone camera just doesn’t cut it for important photographs.

Yes, I think I’ve decided on my payoff. And just like the suspended DirecTV subscription is meant to give Hubby extra incentive for studying, maybe the thought of a digital body for those Pentax lenses will give me the extra nudge I need to find writing time, finish revising, and send my story out into the world.

(Ooh, plus, a nice camera would extend the life on vacation-oriented rewards like Hawaii. I could definitely enjoy Hawaii longer thanks to a good camera. Oh the photo albums I’d make! The enlargements I’d frame! I’d like to dedicate this parenthetical note to Hubby, lest he get the idea that I’m not interested in tropical getaways . . .)

What about you? Do you ever settle on rewards to give yourself extra incentive for something? Does it work? How’s the payoff?

Leave a comment!


4 thoughts on “A Payoff

  1. I think the camera (and Hawaii to practice using it) is a great reward, and yes, I often plan rewards for my writing–big and small. As an example, my writing group and I have an incentive going right now. If we write or revise (depending on where we are in our stories) enough pages, we get a night out. For 20 pages this month we get to hit Wienerschnitzel. (Personal shudder.) For 30, Wendy’s (a little better). If we want pizza it’s 40 (meh), but for a sit down restaurant (now you’re talking) we have to each hit 50. Other times I’ve worked for artwork, nights out at the movies, new books from the bookstore, or most often simply bragging rights for the most words in a day.

    The thing is, I know myself and I need to have short term goals and an incentive to reach them. It doesn’t have to be big, most of the time it’s not. Part of it is the positive reinforcement. Part of it is the competition. All of it is fun.

    And if I do sell a book this year, I want to go see my mom and dad in Portugal. Guess I better get crackin’.


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