Turn Writing into a game.

Turn Writing into a game.


Become a writing machine and immerse yourself into the process.

Table of contents

Become a writing machine and immerse yourself in the process.

Throughout my creative journey, I've struggled with nearly every variation of "writer's block."

- Procrastination
- Distraction seeking
- Dopamine hunting
- Imposter syndrome
- Pressure to produce original thought
… the list goes on.

It's an ongoing battle many writers need help with; however, with a few tactical shifts, I've made writer's block-related issues, for myself, less prevalent. It's made writing more like a game, and it's been ... an absolute game-changer (pun fully intended).

Think about it, have you ever played a game for four or five hours straight before realizing how the time has just flown by? Those moments when daylight has escaped you, and you've barely looked up from the screen.

I've been guilty of it too. And it's easy to see why. Millions of dollars of research and decades of game development experience have meant that developers know the formula required to fully immerse you in the environment of your game.

There's soothing music, a compelling story, an addictive structure, and various cool features and nuances that keep you interested and engaged throughout your session.

But the real question is, how can I recreate the addictiveness of games and apply it to more productive pursuits? Luckily the writing process can easily incorporate these effects for the same result. If you struggle with writing regularly, use what you're about to read in your writing strategy, and you'll transform into a machine.

One thing to note, these tips aren't silver bullets, but rest assured, they're a significant first step toward the fabled "flow state."

1.The Best Games Have Restrictions 👾

All the best games have rules. Rules sharpen your focus and make you think tactically about how you will achieve the desired goal. The best rules pose a compelling challenge to players, forcing them to adapt and overcome obstacles.

Silly outcomes and scenarios make games lose their structure and frustrate players. Conversely, boundaries and logical laws of the game immerse you further into the experience and make you forget you're in a game.

Whether it's lines of code, or an actual referee standing in front of you, rules ensure that all players compete within the same framework. Without regulations, winning games becomes easy and meaningless.

Let's take the family favorite of Monopoly but strip away some rules. Imagine we start the game as usual, but the bank gives you and every other player 10x the initial cash amount. We can easily see how the fun of the game quickly dissipates with this one simple change.

1. Players wouldn't have to think about the deeds they buy (everyone can afford everything)

2. All decision-making leaves the game as everyone simply buys everything they land on

3. With the deeds spread thoroughly amongst the players, all players haggle and negotiate, hoping to form a set.

4. However, there's a problem. No one is willing to sell an opponent the properties they need to form a set. Because they know they will build hotels on them immediately (because they have the cash).

5. So nobody builds houses... so no one actually cares if they land on a player's property (they can easily afford the rent)

6. A stalemate ensues, and the game lasts seemingly forever.

Now think about your favorite game but remove a few crucial rules. Unlimited health, unlimited money, a weapon or spell that one hit kills every boss, super speed, etc.

You can see that removing a few restrictions makes games pointless, uncompetitive, and a drag.

Even when you look at big open-world games, they still have structure to focus your efforts on. Characters provide the player with tasks, quests, or missions to give your exploration more purpose.

Now onto the applicable part, how do you apply some rules to your writing process?

  • Create a time boundary by using the Pomodoro technique. I like to aim for 50 minutes to write an article. 10 minutes planning, 30 mins writing, and 10 minutes editing.
  • You can give yourself a word restriction like Kieran Drew does for his newsletter (400 words)
  • Focus on one topic, and don't stray onto tangents in a single article. Save them for another article.
  • Keep going until you've finished the piece.

2. Stay on brand 😎

Writing on a topic unrelated to your higher purpose is (and always will be) a grind. I experienced this myself during my freelance writing career pre-2020. Back then, I had built a reputation for producing helpful explainers and articles on cryptocurrency and blockchain tech.

While the money was anything to sniff, I grew to hate it. Because I wasn't passionate about the space, it didn't align with my goals and purpose as a creator.

The worst games to play are the ones that don't align with your passions or goals. I have friends who could spend hours playing the soccer game FIFA but would never find themselves on World of Warcraft (and vice-versa).

The genre of games aside, some people prefer games they play with friends or online against other humans, while others prefer solo experiences.

The point of trying to make is this... you never force yourself to play games you hate, right? So don't write about things you hate.

If you've got a really clear idea about what you're passionate about, then keep writing and building around that. If you need more clarification, I'm researching and working on an article about identifying your purpose, which I'll link here when it's done.

3. Make it immersive and rewarding.

Games boast a potency for capturing and sustaining your attention because they give you rewards, prizes, and dopamine hits.

While it's easy to see why writing to thousands of fans would be very rewarding, what should you do if you're just starting out?

I'd start with creating an environment that is pleasurable to write in. Make it comfortable, free of distractions (or failing that), inspiring, and captivating.

Manipulate your environment in a way conducive to the game you're about to play. Listen to music with no lyrics for a start. If you game a lot, you might notice gaming soundtracks have no words and are never chart songs you recognize.

That's because game developers don't want to distract you from their in-game experience.

There would be nothing worse than trying to focus on a challenge or puzzle, and suddenly the song you listened to on repeat when your ex broke up comes on.

Here's my writing playlist in case you were curious 👇

Other ways to reproduce dopamine rewards:

1. Reward yourself every time you publish or schedule an article.

2. Consume your favorite beverage while writing. Tea, Coffee, Diet Coke, etc.

3. (Like in point number 2) Write about topics you love.

4. Finish an article before you start the next one, so you start stacking those small wins.

If you're interested in more tips like this, sign up for my weekly newsletter, where I share insights on writing, creating, and building and other highlights from the week!