Thursday, April 28, 2011

Work in Progress: Playing the Writing Game

While I was at VCCA in March, I wrote a lot of VERY rough drafts of some pieces, and I’m just now starting to sort through the mass (or is that mess?) to see what’s there. It’s rather daunting as, of course, I remember being in the flush of excitement while writing, thinking, “This will be easy-peasy to fix! Just go, go, go!”

I was right to think that back then—first draft is just spilling everything out on the page—but it’s challenging now to enter back into that mental space. And—as you might have guessed—it’s really not all that “easy-peasy” to figure out how to fix things.

And beyond the mental space of what the story needs are those happy, distant memories of “I was working so hard and well back then.” Ten pages a day! Why can’t I do that now?

You know…that voice.

So I was happy to be poking around Cathy Day’s blog, The Big Thing (links below), and discover two posts about motivation and how writers might want to think about turning their writing into a game. No, not one of those never-ending games of Monopoly that last a whole summer vacation week when you’re nine (though that’s actually an apt description of the process of writing a novel)—but a more modern game, with specific goals and rewards. So many words. So many hours. A checkmark on a calendar. A gold star. Reaching the next level.

As Cathy puts it:

"My progress lately, however, has been more difficult to measure, to quantify. Every day, I edit and shape the those pages I generated in the fall. Every day, I feel as though I’ve gained a little a little more insight into my character, into the book’s themes, and how the book will be shaped. But strangely, these achievements towards quality feel less satisfying to me than when I was focused strictly on quantity."

That’s exactly where I am!  And so it was interesting to read on:

"Perhaps what has always separated “real writers” from “wanna-be writers” was that real writers figured out some way to get the writing done. More than likely, this involved creating some kind of internal rewards system or “gamification” to tap into the motivational part of their brains. And then they crafted, yes, and they used their talents and intellects, yes, but first, they had to write a draft."

I’m in. Once I get through my current thicket called “the end of the semester” at two different schools—and some other thickety things—I plan to “gamify” my summer writing. And I'm looking forward to it: She writes, she scoooooores!

Here’s Cathy’s first post:

And here’s where she first explores the whole “game” theory:


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.