Sometimes I’m as surprised as anyone when I hear the words that come out of my mouth. That was the case recently when I suggested to 85-year-old Jack that I was going to make him a star chart to reward him for sticking to his determination to write at least fifteen minutes each day on his memoir project.
“A star chart? What on earth is a star chart? I’m not into astrology!” he quickly informed me.
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that. It’s a tool that parents and teachers use with kids to get them to do things like making their beds or turning their homework in on time. It’s a kind of game. You’ll get a star each day you write. You already have five. I’m going to send you your stars as soon as we hang up.”
He was a little dubious, but he liked getting the email with the stars. I send him a new one every week or so with an update. He hasn’t missed a day of writing in 47 days now. Some days he writes for the minimum fifteen minutes, other days he might write for as long as two hours. Usually it’s closer to half an hour.
“I’ve got to tell you, I was skeptical when you told me about that star chart thing, but I’m surprised how much I like getting those stars. It’s kind of like having perfect attendance at Rotary for the last fifty-two years. When I start something like that, I don’t give up easily!” he told me a few weeks later, grinning like a little kid.
Especially considering that he had started working on this project half a dozen abortive times over several years before we met, this is phenomenal progress, and he’s eager for the world to know how powerful star charts are.
Jack’s progress got me excited. I’m going to make one for writing blog posts – an undertaking that has become too easy to put off in the crush of other activities.
I like to make them in Word, starting with a basic table like the one you see above. You can use the Draw toolbar to make a basic star shape, then copy and paste that into a cell each time you earn a star. You can award stars for completing tasks on specific days, or you can accrue them for results apart from time. For example, Jack gets them for any amount of writing, but there has to be at least fifteen minutes each day. He only gets one star whether he writes for fifteen minutes or two hours, and he gets no star if he doesn’t write.
Another way to do it would be one star for each fifteen minutes or one star for each page, or … you get the idea.
Jack proved that you are never too old to benefit from a star chart. How about you? You are the star of your story. Would a star chart help you get it written?
Write now: think of a writing project – or something else if you prefer – that might move along more smoothly if you had a place to give yourself stars for your efforts. Make a chart, on the computer or a plain sheet of paper. If it’s real paper, you can glue on old-fashioned stars, or draw them with a marker. Decide on the conditions for awarding your stars, then, however you do it, give a try.