Writing Habit? Gamifying Helped

 I struggle with creating a so-called “writing habit”. All the best and prolific writers say we need daily practice to succeed. Like me—you’ve probably read that advice yourself a gazillion times. And, like me, you probably recognize the wisdom of experience in their words.

But, just saying: it’s easier to read that advice than practice it.

Over the last two years, I’ve added several tools into my toolkit, including those designed to help me develop and maintain a daily writing practice. 

My new favourite tool? 4thewords.com, a site that gamifies writing sprints. 

Marcy Lane

What is 4thewords? It’s a game, with a series of challenges: things like suicide sprints (timed sprints where you lose your monster battle if you stop writing), ranging from easy to OMG hard, or timed sprints (commitments to write a certain number of words within a prescribed timeframe) along that same spectrum. The challenges are all tied to killing a monster and stealing their loot so you can advance to the next level.  

My practice now involves at least a daily foray into the world of the Oge Mai Valley.

I’m just competitive enough that I will write 400 words to kill that Aracni monster, so I can find the spider legs needed to rebuild Kyiat’s bridge so I can butter her up to buy my gear. Plus, there’s a bonus. I also get to realize my lifelong dream of becoming a real-life writer.

The game builds on hacks found through neuroscience. Think of 4thewords as a gamified — i.e., fun — version of the pomodoro method or focus blocks. These latter items are also excellent productivity tools, encouraging serial focussed sprints interspersed with breathers. 4thewords taps into the same neuroscience while also being fun.

Here’s my process:

  • I use 4thewords.com when I want to write something from scratch (rather than edit something I’ve already worked on).
  • I open a file using the site’s menu and jot down a few notes. I’d call it an “outline”, but that’s title is too fancy for these mere sparks of ideas.
  • Then I click “start battle” and write away.
  • When I’m finished the draft of my piece, I copy it into Scrivener where I work on it some more.

Like all effective resources, there is a cost to 4thewords.com. They offer a 30-day free trial and several price plans if you decide you too want to include it as part of your daily writing practice. I believe there are ways you can collect a free supply of the “crystals” needed to pay for a subscription through various challenges in the game. But if you find yourself short, crystals can be bought using real-world US dollars. (If you find the trick to collecting the free crystals, please drop me a line. Or just drop me a line if this tip helps you in your own writing practice.)

I’m not an affiliate of 4thewords. Hm, but maybe I should be. I only endorse my favourite things, things that I’ve tried personally and meet my needs. I give 4thewords.com a big hug for helping to gamify, plus ramp-up, my productivity. 

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