Would you rather write a blog post or 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.
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 suffer 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 specific and straightforward. The Hemingway app is a blunt instrument. It doesn’t require you to know grammar terms or syntax. It simply marks passive voice, sentences that are too long and words that are too complicated. Reduce or eliminate those problems, and your score will improve. (Nonfiction writers should aim for a grade 7 to 10 level of writing, no higher.)
3. It uses color. 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 color.
The bottom line is that the Hemingway app is fun. It turns work into a game, and isn’t that good?
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—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 p.m. suddenly realizing that I hadn’t written the next day’s post.
Although 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 that 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 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 encouraged participants to write an entire novel (50,000 words) in November. They could earn badges, talk to other writers and even “validate” their novel by creating an account and pasting it in.
A visual prompt
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 e-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.
Along with 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; 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.
A version of this article first appeared on The Publication Coach.