Tough Love or Operant Conditioning

Several weeks ago I bought a ukulele.


It is purple and sparkly and I can already play recognizable versions of La Vie En Rose, All About That Bass, Happy Birthday, and Me and Bobby McGee. I am still working on a respectable version of Wagon Wheel.

But this post isn’t about how I’m clearly a ukulele prodigy. It is about the amount of time I spend strumming away at this instrument that some people consider the musical equivalent of the recorder. The other day I spent 90 minutes playing. 90 minutes.

I don’t want to be too hard on myself because I did spend 90 minutes playing a musical instrument and not 90 minutes playing Plants Vs Zombies 2 but still that was 90 minutes I wasn’t writing.

In some ways it is good. I love to write about music and some of the characters I write about play instruments so getting to experience the feeling of strumming my way through a Jason Mraz song is only going to make my writing better but not if I abandon all writing practice in favor of playing my ukulele.

I totally get why I would choose ukulele time over writing time. I seem to be progressing fairly well considering that six weeks ago I’d never played a stringed instrument before. I also have no aspirations that I will someday support myself with my ukulele playing skills or record a CD of my singing songs I’ve written on my ukulele. But I had a thought- What if I matched my ukulele time with my writing time. If I wrote for as long as I wanted to uke for?

So, starting this week, tough love, or as my friend who is getting her Master’s in Psychology calls it Operative Conditioning. From here on out I earn ukulele time by writing 500 words= 30 minutes of uke time. Hopefully this will help me keep my writing time balanced with all the other things.

Have you used operative conditioning to reward yourself for writing?



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