This one is for those of you that run or belong to a writing group…
Finger puppets, fruit-shaped erasers, mariachi rubber ducks, pens, journals, stickers, tiny crayons… I started the prize basket after seeing the naked delight in my writer’s eyes when I gave out free pens at the end of a workshop. No matter what age we are, the words, “free prize” elicit helpless excitement.
I never put anything too fattening in the basket. I don’t want the prizes to be just another stick for your inner critic to beat you with. And I throw in lots of practical stuff that writers actually use – pens, file cards, post-it notes. Sharpies are especially sought after. Collectibles are great – you can’t get all six monster puppets if you don’t bring in new pages. Some writers explain every week that they are just taking a prize to give to their children or grandchildren. Suuuure you are.
When I was teaching teens, I had trouble getting them to show up on time… Until I gave out bowls of sugary cereal as promptness prizes. Oh, don’t look at me like that. I always used organic milk. The point was, they began to associate showing up for writing with a happy treat rather than a red pen and a grade.
Writing is rarely fun or even comfortable. It’s isolating, exposing and gratification is so very delayed. If you produce pages, you should get a nifty prize.
The kind I use are available on Amazon and other sites for very little money – just search “awesome toy prizes” or “office supplies.” And writers often regift things to the basket. I’ve had donations of CDs, DVDs, kitchen gadgets, concert tickets and spa treatments. With very little effort or cash outlay, you can bring a lot of pleasure to your writing group. And you will be rewarded with smiles and an uptick in output.