Making Writing a Habit With Gamification

woman-typing-writing-windowsI love writing. Writing energizes me. Why, then do I have so much trouble making the time to do it?

Sound familiar? If you’re like me and juggling writing and another career, it probably does. I don’t do formal New Year’s Resolutions, but I did set a goal to be more consistent in my writing this year. My release schedule was slipping to about 18 months, and I want to tighten that up, which means I need to finish the current book before the end of the year.

Fortunately, an excellent tool crossed my path. It’s Habitica, which makes keeping habits into a game. I wrote about it on my business blog. (If you didn’t know I had one, this is a great time to check it out.) In brief, the idea is that your habits become like quests in an role playing game. Do you habits and you earn gold and experience. Don’t do your habits, and you lose health. Lose enough health and you die. 🙁

Don’t worry. I’m still alive. I’m one of those people who responds well to this sort of motivation, and Habitica has helped keep me consistent with my writing. I made “Write 500 words” a weekday habit. I get bonus credit for each additional 250 words.

Starting this has done a couple of things. First, I’ve been consistently meeting my goal, and I’ve written around 30K words this year so far. While that’s not going to break any records, I’ve completed one novella and am well into the next novel. So far, I’m on track to publish the novel by the end of the year. Oh, and I have written on holidays. Or written ahead so I could take a day off. The game aspect has kept me committed because I don’t want to take damage. My husband thinks it’s silly, but it works for me.

Not surprisingly, the more I write, the faster and easier it becomes. Last year, when I wrote only sporadically, it was hard work most of the time. (Part of that was the story I was working on.) This year, yes, I have tough days, but mostly it’s going smoothly. It’s not uncommon for me to reach 1K words or more in a session.

Setting the goal had one other, unexpected effect. By setting a specific word goal, I know when I’m done. On days I just don’t feel like writing, I can tell myself “It’s only 500 words. You can do that.” And I can. And I allow myself to quit as soon as I hit the 500 mark. Previously, I just had a vague goal to “write when I could.” You can imagine how well that worked. In hindsight, it’s amazing I’ve published as much I have.

I know that word count goals don’t work for everyone. I recently read an article on reasons not to track word count, but the system and Habitica works for me. (Sorry, can’t find the article.)

What about you? What keeps you motivated to write consistently?

2 thoughts on “Making Writing a Habit With Gamification”

  1. Well, I have to give this Habitica a try just for the fun of it. I like a challenge and this is also game-like.

    I do write about about 500 words or so a day on this book. I usually write 2,500 a day when I’m on fire. I’m not on fire with this book, hence the 500 number. The problem is, this dystopian SF adventure has two opposing environments. I have to TWO worlds. The extended narrative and backstory up front is killing me. I’m 26,00 words through and it’s the toughest plot and premise I’ve ever attempted. And I’ve written close to 25 books.

    1. @Chris, sounds like a real challenge. Best of luck with it. My last book was a killer and took way too long to finish, so I hear where you are coming from. I wish I’d known about Habitica when I was writing it. If you like it and want to try the social side of it, let me know, and I’ll invite you to my adventuring party. I’ve got two quests I need to do but my other party member kind of went AWOL on me.

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