I Was Going To Write A Blog Post, And Then I Realized I Didn’t Have To

book keyboard button

photo (c) Fotolia, purchased for use

I’ve been working really, really hard on a writing project. Dedicated. I do most of this work late at night, and to be honest, there were nights when I’d probably have enjoyed snuggling with the Dobermans and watching a movie rather than yanking out my hair and wondering how to shave a few thousand more words.

I was thinking of writing a blog post on OC and staying on task with this project — an acceptable form of procrastination, perhaps? — when I stumbled upon another blog post and realized I didn’t have to write it. It was already there for me.

Sarah Fine, according to her blog profile, is a psychologist and young adult author. This post, part of a series on the psychology (read: behavior analysis) of writer’s block. is just brilliant.

Not long ago, I met a new client who uses Applied Behavior Analysis in her day job with special-needs children. As I, a behavior analyst and TAGteach instructor, explained our training with her dog, she exclaimed, “You’re speaking my language!” And this is exactly how I felt as I read Sarah’s blog post:

You’ve probably heard of “negative reinforcement” before, but I have to tell you, most people don’t know what it really means. But now you know! It STRENGTHENS a behavior by removing something that feels bad.

YES. We avoid an unpleasant or difficult task, and the very avoidance reinforces procrastination or diversion and makes avoidance more likely in the future. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle and will remain in effect, growing stronger, until we act on it. CYCLE OF DOOM.

(This works in all areas of life, unfortunately — which is why I have dirty dishes in the sink right now, too. Don’t tell.)

Sarah does a great job next of reminding us to split tasks. I have no idea if she’s familiar with TAGteach, but she even presents a nice TAGpoint: “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.” (Okay, so that’s actually a bit of a cheat for a TAGpoint, with two pieces of criteria and six words — but Sarah bypasses all that with the acronym BICHOK. I see what you did there.) And she goes on to remind us of the importance of reinforcement and the utter lack of punishment, because punishment doesn’t fix avoidance, after all!

I haven’t yet read one of Sarah’s books, but I think I’ll have to soon, perhaps as a reinforcer for getting my work done. I enjoy YA, and she speaks my language. 🙂



About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.
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