Implementing Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning In My Writing Routine | MBA Lessons Are Life Lessons

Classical conditioning was initially discovered to be an effective method of learning in dogs – however, ever since Ivan Pavlov came up with this theory, tons and tons of researches have proved that classical conditioning has the exact same effect on humans as well.

There are several successful ad  campaigns that have tapped on classical conditioning to reap more retention with their customers.

The one thing writers struggle with the most is actually sitting down to write. The one thing that distinguishes professional writers from the amateurs is that the professionals are self disciplined and have an established routine.

The amateurs talk about writing, think about writing and dream about writing – instead of actually just writing!

I understand that artists can’t be tamed – you can’t confine them into a schedule.

I acknowledge, respect and stand for the fact that ideas and creativity can’t be flicked on and off as one wants – they’re not switches.

However, having said all that – I also strongly root for the fact that working in the creative domain can make you easily slip into laziness and procrastination. You will find yourself willing to let yourself be more and more idle with each passing day, because unlike a regular 9-5 job, you don’t have a boss or a deadline threatening you here. You are your own boss, and thus self discipline is important at a much bigger magnitude in this industry than anywhere else.

This is where I say, give classical conditioning a chance!

This management lesson can turn out to be an invaluable life lesson.

So, back to the fundamentals. I’m not going to dive deep into the topic and try to minimize the technical jargon as much as possible.

What is Classical Conditioning?

Classical conditioning is basically a form of learning.

It’s the form of learning where a person (or a cute furry animal, say a puppy

The text book definition of classical conditioning goes like this:

Classical conditioning occurs when an unconditioned response becomes a conditional response to an unrelated conditional stimulus.

Just like Penicillin, X Rays and other major life-changing scientific discoveries, Pavlov discovered the classical conditioning theory accidentally.

Pavlov feeds his dogs everyday, and he noticed how the dogs salivated every time he brought in their food. Curious enough, he began noticing that the dogs salivated even when he entered the room empty handed.

This lead to the behavioral concept that the unconditional response (the salivation) was associated with the unconditional stimulus (the food).

This triggered another question in his mind – could the dog learn to associate any other object or event which the dog could link with food and thus salivate? Could he link (or force) another neutral or external stimulus to the salivation and food correlation?

Cue dramatic BGM, and Pavlov brings in the Legendary bell.

Ivan decided to conduct an experiment linking the sound of a bell ringing to a dog salivating. Here’s a short summary of the course of events that actually happened:

  1. Each time a bell rings, food (unconditioned stimulus) is brought in for the dog.
  2. The dog salivates (unconditioned response)
  3.  Pavlov continued ringing the bell, and presenting the dog with food, and they salivated each time.What’s actually happening here, is that he is letting the dogs to salivate because they know food follows the noise of the bell. (The ringing of bell here is a neutral stimulus.)
  4. One fine day, Ivan stops giving the dogs food, but rings the bell anyway.
  5. Guess what……

6. The Dog Salivates.

So, the salivation that was assumed to be a physiological response to food, is now being triggered by the sound of the bell, because the dog had associated the sound of bell to food.

And thus with the help of a conditioned stimulus – the bell – the dog’s unconditioned response of salivation can be conditioned.

I know most of you are rolling your eyes and wondering, ‘Why this long lecture now, Bala? Can’t you just go on with bragging about your books, ranting about relationships or reviewing movies?’

But how can such a deep, mind-boggling discovery be let go of so easily? Isn’t it simply amazing it is when we think how simple it can be to condition someone or something in this way.

There’s so much more to this concept than just a curious Russian Doctor meddling with his Dog’s salivation.

Classical conditioning can be applied to everyday life.

It’s the key to modifying behavior.

It has been implemented on children, in business environment – advertising executives have mastered the art of applying associative learning, and there are also several cases where Classical Conditioning has been used as a form of therapy.

So, here’s how I’m going to implement this concept – my writing routine for NaNoWriMo 2016.

NaNoWriMo is November Novel Writing Month and it’s where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world come together to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel, from scratch.

This is my second year at NaNo, and I’ve even finished outlining my plot. (To add me as your writer buddy, if you’re participating, click here.)

However, the real challenge in winning NaNoWriMo is that you have to fight procrastination and just write! In an average you need to pen down 1,667 words to reach your 50,000 word goal and that ain’t an easy thing for working professionals.

But there are lots of people who manage to win NaNo by proper strategics and time management. Last year, I wrote my novel First Impressions and I did win! Although at that time it was only a very rough, rough draft and the manuscript has undergone several revisions ever since.

So, for this year, my survival strategy for NaNoWriMo is Classical Conditioning.

Starting today, for the next 10 days, I will be triggering my productivity through conditioned external stimuli.

  1. Take up a writing spot. Make it a sacred shrine for just writing. When I’m in that spot, I will have to be productive. I have to write. This sends the message that when I’m in a certain space – a certain ambiance, it’s time to write.
  2. I will create a playlist of certain songs that I will only play when I write. So that when I hear these songs, it helps my subconscious make the connection that it’s time to write.
  3. A special blend of coffee or a new flavor of tea that I will drink only when I’m writing, so that aroma and taste are back linked to the writing process.
  4. I also love incense sticks and scented candles. I have two exquisite flavors of both, that I will use only when I’m writing.  The scent from these will again trigger me to write.

NaNoWriMo is a tough, tough challenge. Anyone attempting it must be comfortable with working under high stress levels, brilliant time management and must be willing to push oneself through high levels of self inflicted torture!

Who are we kidding, we are expecting to birth a 50,000 word novel in a freaking month! You bet it’s going to get crazy!

But the best part of NaNoWriMo is the community. It’s probably the world’s biggest gathering of writers who all have such valuable resources and insights that makes you feel a lot less lonely. The pep talks, the survival kits and the ultimate motivation of them all – you get a winners’ certificate at the end and a complete manuscript to send out to publishers.

NaNo not only disciplines you into writing everyday, but also makes you finish the damn book.

I know that just because I won last year doesn’t guarantee that I’ll win this year. NaNoWriMo can bless you one year and throw a curse at you the next. I have seem authors who have won for seven years straight. I have also seen authors who have never crossed the 20k word limit, but they keep trying over and over again and they finally win the 11th or 12th time! (These are my favorite kind of people, btw.) I also know authors who give up after the first year of losing.

I have no idea what NaNoWriMo has in store for me 2016, but I am so damn excited.

So, having said all that I have left to do is accumulate a lot of coffee, and create playlists and find a writing spot where I can light my candles and begin writing something for the next 10 days while I’m using these ‘writing stimuli’, so that hopefully by the time the First of November rolls in,  my brain is conditioned and programmed to taste the coffee, smell the candles, listen to the songs and immediately get into writing mode!

That’s the plan. That’s the dream. That’s the hope.

I know for some people Classical Conditioning a creative process sounds like it’s all trickery, that I’m  trying to be some kind of hypnotic con-artist, but errr……I only use it on my self and for a good cause,so….?



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P.S: I’d like to hook you up with this book I wrote, it’s up on Amazon for sale!

Beach House Affair Cover

If you like Murder Thrillers with an Indian Twist, Click Here. 

A review on Amazon would be much appreciated!


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