I did it! I won the Wordscape tournament. No, I didn’t get a gold trophy for the mantle, nor did I get a purse of cold coins. I got a lot of points, which I will never use. The point is not what I won, but why I won and what that has to do with writing.
Learn new words. My life-long reading habit has given me a love of words. Sometimes I love the feel of them as they fill my mouth; sometimes I like the sound of them The tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells has always felt and sounded like word candy. Over the years, I have amassed a large vocabulary and seldom come across words I’ve never seen or heard before. It’s always fun to find a new one.
If Wordscape accepts a word that I’ve never seen, I can tap the word and the definition pops up on my screen. Of course, if I don’t see or use it again, I will not remember it, but the word itself is a discovery—even if ephemeral. If I do manage to make the word part of my vocabulary, my writing will be the richer for it.
Gain a new skill. The ability to see words in a set of jumbled letters is a skill that helps with other things. My Scrabble skills have increased as well, even though I seldom play. My crossword puzzle skills have benefitted, too. I can see a partial word and my brain automatically starts filling in reasonable letters for the blanks.
No, I don’t sit around playing word games all day, but it is another way of keeping my brain active. Keeping your mental game sharp and exercised is always a winning strategy.
Strengthen your Self-Discipline. I spent the final day of the tournament alternately writing, editing, and confidently playing short bursts of my game. I was Number 1 until two hours before the tournament ended. As I watched the screen, my standing dropped to Number 2! Oh, no!
It was nearly time to sleep, and I could always try again next weekend. But that would be quitting, wouldn’t it? How far behind could I be? I turned off the TV and concentrated. The Game Was On! It took me an hour to regain first place, and then I couldn’t stop because I pictured the now-number-2 player hunched over his own screen, gritting his or her teeth and working furiously to unseat me once again. I was tired and sleepy, but I persevered. I played on, keeping my Number One seat until the tournament ended.
That is how books are written. It’s not all fun, especially the proofreading, but that’s what makes a story shine. The discipline to stick with the research, the editing, smiling through the critiques, staying at the computer when your favorite show beckons from the other room…writing needs self-discipline.
Consistent effort. I play Wordscape every day. Sometimes just ten minutes, the equivalent of stretching exercise for my brain, sometimes for a half an hour through a not-very-inspiring TV program, and once for two hours at top speed to make it to the finish line first.
All of this is relevant to writing. Read voluminously, absorb new ideas, learn new words, pay attention to the craft as you read. Stephen King says, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Writing is hard work. Form good habits, be consistent, be self-disciplined, keep your mind alert.