How to ‘game’ your writing

Reading time: Less than 3 minutes

Is writing a chore that you dread? Here are some suggestions for how to make writing more fun…

Would you rather write a blog post or go play a game of Hearts? Do your household budget or read a novel? Produce a report for your boss or take the dog for a walk?

Maybe you’re extra diligent and not able to enjoy your time off until you’ve done all your work. But give most people the choice, and they’d much rather play than work.

But what if you could do both at the same time?

That’s exactly the reason why I like to “game” my writing. This idea occurred to me when I noticed how much fun my clients have whenever I suggest they use the Hemingway App.

Some have even reported to me that they’ve told all their colleagues about the app and soon just about everyone in their organization is using it. Why is it so popular? Three reasons, I think:

1) It allows you to improve your writing yourself. No need to tolerate the shame of having an editor or a boss red pencil your crappy first draft. You’re protected by the anonymity of the Internet.

2) It’s very specific and straightforward. The Hemingway app is a blunt instrument. It doesn’t require you to know grammar terms or syntax. It simply marks sentences that are too long, words that are too complicated and passive voice. Reduce or eliminate those problems and your score will improve. (Non-fiction writers should generally aim for a grade 7 to 10 level of writing, no higher.)

3) It uses colour. Colour! I’m convinced this is the secret sauce, the legerdemain of the Hemingway app. It’s fun because it highlights your mistakes in pretty tones. Sure you might hate a red pencil for telling you you’ve used passive voice. But who can object to the Hemingway code for passive — a swath of bright Spring green? I feel positively uplifted every time I see that colour.

Bottom line is the Hemingway app is fun. It turns work into a game and isn’t that good? But I don’t stop there. Recently, I’ve been trying some other ways to game my writing. My latest? I’ve given myself the goal of writing my daily blog post before noon. For me, this has been just as successful as the Hemingway App.

It’s a SMART goal. (Smart meaning: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Measured.) And it pays me back, big-time. A year ago, for example, you might have found me at 5 pm, suddenly noticing that I hadn’t written the next day’s post. While I like some pressure — I wouldn’t have survived 25 years in the newspaper business if I didn’t! — I don’t like having to do something creative at the end of the day. It’s not my best time.

Willpower is also more abundant in the morning, so I know I should use it when it’s still in ample supply. Furthermore, when I get the writing done before noon, I feel so damn accomplished I’m buoyed for the rest of the day, giving me the resilience to accomplish even more.

I’ve noticed that other successful businesses not only do the same sort of thing, they also come up with interesting names for it. Take a look at Marla Cilley, who also goes by the name of Fly Lady.  Her business is helping people organize their homes better. I love her name for getting rid of junk around your house. She calls it a Super Fling Boogie. Doesn’t that sound more fun than cleaning? I also like the way she encourages people to report the weight of the clutter they’ve discarded.

National Novel Writing Month does the same thing with a hard-to-say but memorable acronym: NaNoWriMo.  Organizers encourage participants to write an entire novel (50,000 words) in the month of November. They can earn badges, talk to other writers and even “validate” their novel by creating an account and pasting it in.

Here’s another trick/game I use: I make charts. The most successful has been the one I share with my Get It Done group (if you’re writing a book or thesis, see here for more info on applying to the program for January.) When I wrote the first draft of my book 8.5 steps to writing faster better and the crappy first draft of my yet unnamed second one, I filled out this chart, daily. Among other metrics, it tracks the number of words you write each day and how many words you have left to write. This system — of small, daily production — operates like magic and the chart illustrates your success, and encourages you to keep producing.

Writing is work, true. But if you can convince yourself that it’s also fun, you’re likely to do way more of it. And do it more easily, too.

14-11-Blog IncHow do you game your writing, or at least make it a little more fun? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section. (If you don’t see the comments, go here and then scroll to the very end.) And, congratulations to Wendy Kalman, the winner of this month’s book prize, Blog Inc. by Joy Deangdeelert Cho for her Nov. 5/14 comment on my blog. Anyone who comments on today’s blog post (or any others) by Dec. 31/14 will be put in a draw for a copy of the inspirational book, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.