As creatives, we all have a million ideas. But if we’re going to turn any of tthem into reality, we have to have a plan, and that’s where the wheels fall off the bus for many of us. Rochelle Melander is here today to share a method for doing this that you may not have considered—one that involves combining writing with gaming. Two of my favorite things!
About ten years ago, my husband and I got pedometers. We’d always been very competitive, but the pedometers gave us a new game to play. Who could walk more in a day? In a week? Suddenly my husband was volunteering to walk books back to the library, take children to the park, and carry laundry up and down the stairs. It’s not that he hadn’t done these things before—he had. He was just more excited about it now. As we turned walking into a competitive sport, we both won. We both walked more than the recommended 10,000 steps a day and felt better overall.
We benefited by gamifying our lives. Gamification brings game elements to existing experiences to make them more engaging. It has been used in just about every area of life, including the military, advertising and marketing, and in the health industry. For writers, National Novel Writing Month is a great example of gamification. Participants sign on to complete the challenge or writing a 50,000-word novel in a month. Winners get badges and bragging rights.
I learned about this idea through the book SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient. In the book, author Jane McGonigal talks about how she used gaming to heal from a brain injury. She said, “When we play a game, we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, and more optimism. We’re also more likely to reach out to others for help.” (p. 3)
You can use gamification for just about anything, including making social media posts, querying agents, and publicizing your book. Here’s how you can use this concept to write more.
Define Your Epic Win
What would a big win look like for you? Writing your book in the next 60 days? Writing daily? Finishing the draft of that super-secret project you’ve been longing to write but haven’t had time?
Get a Secret Identity
When I was first writing professionally, I felt like an imposter. Because of that, I had difficulty claiming my writing time. I might have benefited from adopting a secret identity. For those of you who juggle day jobs, family responsibilities, and more, having a secret identity can help you feel more powerful.
Choose a favorite superhero or two that have some of the traits you use to succeed: resilience, strength, extreme vision, or courage. Create a name that will help you embody these traits. Model your name after your favorite superheroes—maybe Wonder Writer, IronWriter, Super Word Weaver. Take a look at some of the online name generators to help you choose your name. (Google Superhero Name Generator and look at the images tab.) It can also be helpful to give yourself a tagline. Superman was faster than a speeding bullet. You might be “The fastest drafter in town” or “Making up Fun Stuff Since 1999.”
Who will support you in this endeavor? We need allies to support and encourage us on our quests. Develop a list of people who can be there to check in with you once a week. Think about who might keep you accountable, encourage you, and help you celebrate. One interesting way to do this is to add your future self to your list of allies and imagine that he or she is rooting you on.
A villain is anything that prevents you from achieving your goal. It can be the inner critic, online or in-person distractions, or toxic friends and colleagues. Who interrupts your writing time? What roadblocks do you encounter? Are you dealing with imposter syndrome? Name the villains you commonly face (thereby taking away their power) and make a plan for defeating them.
If you’ve ever played a video game, you know that power-ups give you extra energy or abilities to navigate the game, fight villains, and survive. As a writer, power-ups help us renew our energy, overcome roadblocks, and finish difficult tasks. For example, doing a repetitive activity like knitting or folding clothes can lead to finding the solution to a writing problem. Make a list of the activities that support you as a writer. These might include taking walks, gardening, chatting with a friend, taking a nap, cuddling with your dog, or eating a healthy snack. Next time you get stuck, try a power-up to renew your energy and move forward.
When runners cross the finish line, they’re often rewarded with a participant medal and, in some races, a mug of beer. How will you reward yourself after each quest? Like power-ups, rewards don’t have to be expensive or fancy. And many of your power-up activities will work as rewards, too.
But rewards and power-ups differ in two key ways. First, because rewards happen at the end of a quest, they can be a bit more elaborate. So, while working on the quest, you might take short walks to boost your energy. But when you finish your quest, you could reward yourself with a longer walk in a new neighborhood.
Second, rewards can be special activities you don’t do every day. So, a power-up might be spending fifteen minutes in the garden while a reward could be going to the store to buy a new plant. If you choose a reward that will delight you when you finish your quest, you’ll be even more likely to win!
Now, imagine that your epic win is completing a draft of your novel by the end of August. That’s great—but it’s a long way off. You need a series of quests to get you from here to there. Here are examples of some potential quests that might help you reach your epic win:
- Research Quest: Study the clothing choices for a woman in 1880s France
- Writing Quest: Write an elevator pitch or logline for your book
- Plotting Quest: Write a list of potential scenes for your book
- Editing Quest: Apply my critique group’s edits to chapter four
- Submission Quest: Query five agents
- Promotion Quest: Connect with five bloggers about potential guest posts
When you’ve established a quest, make it doable by deciding on the following elements:
- A Measurable Goal (Write 500 words a day)
- The When, Where, and What (After breakfast each day, I will sit in my favorite writing chair and write scenes for my novel until I hit 500 words)
- A Power-up (If I get stuck, I will fold laundry, sweep the floor, or do dishes for 15 minutes and then get back to work)
- Rewards (When I finish my 500 words each day, I will reward myself with 30 minutes on Facebook. At the end of each week, I will have coffee with my accountability buddy.)
Pro Tip: As you develop quests, make sure that your reward is tied to your actions instead of the results. Why? The publishing world is fickle. You can only control what you do. Do it well, and you will succeed no matter what.
Once you’ve developed and played a few quests, you’ll get a sense of which quests work best. You’ll also know what power-ups renew your energy the most and which types of rewards will motivate you. You’ll be better able to design quests that help you reach your goals.
Ready, Set, Go!
Writers spend a good chunk of their lives alone, in our heads, making stuff up. When we’re pre-published, we may be working without deadlines or any other kind of external accountability. Gamifying our work lives can help us stay focused on our goals and write more.
Rochelle Melanderis a speaker, certified professional coach, and the bestselling author of twelve books, including Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. Through her writing and coaching, Rochelle Melander helps writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs overcome distractions and procrastination, design a writing life, turn their ideas into books, navigate the publishing world, and connect with readers through social media. She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories. Visit her online at writenowcoach.com. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.