The Sticker System – Best Way To Write

A few weeks ago I saw a video blog about the best way to write.

This wonderful writer (whom I cannot for the life of me remember now) showed off her sticker system.

It’s a quite simple concept. You start by buying a calendar (I spent $3) and a bunch of multi-colored stickers (another $3 for day-dots in my case). Every day, you try to write a certain number of words and if you do, you put a sticker on the date. If not, you get no sticker.

I thought on the topic for a few weeks and eventually decided it was a good way to visually see how much progress I was actually making in writing. Especially me, the king of procrastination.

Also in the video blog, the writer mentions that her first month was basically garbage. She didn’t commit to the system as she had hoped but once she turned the page on a new month, her “practice month” ended up really driving her success going forward.

Personally, I still don’t know if I agree with all the cliche comments that you hear about writing. Things like “The only rule is writers write” and “If you don’t NEED to write, you’re not a writer,” ect. I think things have changed in writing, especially the speed at which books are written, but despite only producing two books, you’d have to be an idiot to say Harper Lee isn’t a writer… and I’m doubting the same standard was applied. No doubt TKAM was edited and rewritten and worked over more times than I could fathom, but still you get my point.

Now, before you rip me up in the comments, understand that I’m not saying writing is the enemy. I’m simply saying when you apply a formula to anything, you’re not accounting for the whole picture.

I digress.

Regardless of my animosity towards these simple “rules” that we bind to ourselves and use to make ourselves feel horrible when we fail, I still do think establishing a solid habit of writing is a very good thing. So I’ve implemented the sticker system.

For me it works like this –

I get a Green sticker if I write 500 words in a day. It can’t just be any 500 words, but it has to be a part of a book I am working on. I’ve got lots of projects that I have really no intention of finishing but just enjoy working on from time to time. And then I’ve got one “main” project that I have every intention of seeing to completion. I will, however, allow myself one caveat. On Sundays (the day before I try to post a weekly blog entry on Monday), I allow myself to call a blog entry worthy of a sticker. If I procrastinate and wait till Monday to write my entry? No sticker. Hopefully this will get me back on track with you all! 😉

But that’s not all I need to build in habits. I get a Yellow sticker if I read 30 pages of something published. It has to be something in a genre I am writing, but I’ve decided I need to stop being so hard on myself when I get picky and put down a book.

And finally, I get a purple sticker if I edit at least 3 pages of either my own project or my critique partners project. If I edit my own too often, I’ll be imposing rules on how many purple stickers I can earn per week from my own work, or I’ll be adding both to the docket to get my sticker (i.e. edit 3 pages of my book and 3 pages or 1 chapter of a crit partners work).

My hope is to build good habits. And being that I’m all about accountability, I’m choosing to share my system with you all so you can ridicule me if I fail at it.

Actually I’d prefer not to be ridiculed. Maybe just pestered a bit.

What are your thoughts on the sticker system? Have any of you done something similar? Has it worked?

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4 thoughts on “The Sticker System – Best Way To Write

  1. I think you (and the writer who inspired you) is on to something. This past April I participated in my first NaNoWriMo camp. I did it privately because I was afraid of failing in front of others, but to my delight, I actually achieved my 20K word goal. Like the sticker calendar, Camp NaNoWriMo’s website gives writers a daily breakdown of how much they have written each day, whether they’re on track to reaching word count goals, and friendly comparisons to other “campers.” I think what’s really telling is what happened after camp ended (May 1st) . . .which is, not a whole lot of anything. My work in progress was basically ignored in favor of summer craziness and no-excuse-for-it-procrastination. Hoping my April writing habits could be reestablished, I signed up for July’s NaNoWriMo camp (this time with fellow cabin mates) and once again–voila! My word count is climbing steadily toward my goal. In fact, I might even finish my first dirty draft this month. Whether it’s the tangible deadline or the daily pressure to produce, I’ve decided this sort of record keeping is for me! Unfortunately NaNoWriMo camp only happens twice a year (so far), so I might be investing in a calendar and stickers soon. Thanks so much for the idea!

    • Yes! Like you, I’ve had much success in Nanowrimo. Each November they do a 50,000 word count goal across the board and rather than cabins, you get forums. It’s always a blast and this year will be my third year doing it. I’m 2 for 2 so far with finishing rough drafts of books. But if Nano is your thing, you get 3 of them per year! 🙂 The calendar might tide you over between each festive event!

      Thank you so much for the comment and your perspective! Love to hear it! 🙂

  2. Brian, I think the writer you might be referring to is V. E. Schwab and her sticker system. I use it myself. When there’s a blank on my calendar, I write why: sick, mulling new project, whatever. (I give myself an orange sticker for every 500 words, blue for books read, green for review, yellow for critique work.) It does motivate me because I like stickers. 🙂

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