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Training the Writer...

Cheryl's Musings: Training the Writer...

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Training the Writer...

Anyone who has studied up on animal training knows that intermittent reinforcement is one of the most powerful training techniques.

Intermittent reinforcement (Cheryl's non-technical definition) is rewarding a given behavior some, but not all, of the times that the behavior occurs. I used positive reinforcement to train my dog to sit--she got a yummy treat every time she did it right. Once she'd learned the behavior, I cut back on the treats. Intermittent reinforcement means that I give her a treat some of the time she obeys. Not every time, but just often enough to keep her coming back.

Well, it's occurred to me that my e-mail program (or editors and agents--or the world at large) has trained me to check my e-mail with increasing frequency. It provides that incredibly addictive intermittent reinforcement.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, my e-mail messages are unexciting (and that's not even counting the messages that head straight into my spam folder) but every once in a while--usually just after I've said "there won't be anything good, since I just checked my messages five minutes ago"--I get something great. A request for a manuscript...or a kind word from an editor...or correspondence about an article I have out in submissions land...

Luckily, I write longhand. Far, far, far away from my e-mail program!

:) Cheryl

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