I thought I wanted to write a blog post about cultivating a daily writing practice. But, what I really want to write about is my own daily writing practice. Maybe I would have been able to do it without 4 The Words, but I’m still going to give them credit. It would have been a much harder habit to form without all the support of this website.
4 The Words www.4thewords.com is a web application that basically makes a role-playing game out of writing. There are monsters to battle (word goals with timed limits), quests to complete, wardrobes to acquire, and goals to be met. According to the 4 The Words standards, I have to write 444 words a day to consider it a complete day of writing. Lucky for me, I’m a quick writer, so this isn’t a monstrous goal. If you’re a slow writer, you could always write in Word and then paste into the specific file in 4 The Words. It’s not cheating if it gets you where you want to go.
It gets better. 4 the Words counts the writing days and tallies my streak of consecutive days writing. As of today, I am on an 859 day word streak. That’s really motivating, because who wants to break a streak that long? Not me! After a one year streak, you win a pair of gorgeous angel wings. They are bigger at the two year streak. At the three year streak, I can win fire wings. Fire wings! For some people, that might not be a big deal, but for me, that’s motivation! There are items called stempos that can be bought or won that can cover a missed day (it takes two per day covered), so an actual missed day of writing won’t kill a killer streak. In the past three years or so, I’ve used less than ten. In 2018, I missed only one day, and that was one where I wrote some, but was at the Writer’s Police Academy all day and was too exhausted to finish the 444.
According to expert Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, the cornerstones of habit forming are: cue, routine, and reward:
“If you want to start running each morning, it’s essential that you choose a simple cue (like always lacing up your sneakers before breakfast or leaving your running clothes next to your bed) and a clear reward (such as a midday treat, a sense of accomplishment from recording your miles, or the endorphin rush you get from a jog). But countless studies have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last. Only when your brain starts expecting the reward–craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment-will it become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.”
For me, 4 the Words covers all three items. The cue is sitting down to my computer, and checking out my questbook (lists of monsters to beat in order to win a certain prize or prizes). Then I select which monsters I want to fight in order to further my quest goals and reach at least 444 words. After that, I start writing! Once I’ve defeated my monster, I go back the questbook to admire the progress I’ve made (the site gives a percentage for how close you are to completing the quest). There’s my small reward. When I can actually complete a quest, that’s a bigger reward. After hitting certain benchmarks, I get even bigger rewards. In addition to my wings, the site gives prizes for streaks, so I can check and see what prizes are on the way.
The site also has special promotions and quests throughout the year. The biggest, of course, is in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but they also run special events for both camp NaNos in April and July, Valentine’s Day events, Halloween, Pride, something for their anniversary. All of these give me an extra push every so often. That’s motivating too.
The site isn’t free, but it’s pretty cheap and priceless for me. They give a free month for people to see if it will work for them, so I encourage all writers to take advantage and see if it motivates them. The support staff is fantastic, too. They’re constantly upgrading and making changes, and if anything goes wrong, they are very responsive. It’s also got a great community. If you’re having struggles or questions or just want to be goofy, there’s a forum for you to post. They also have a section where you can post your work, but I don’t use that feature, so I don’t have much to add about it.
Anyway, 4 the Words has been my path to building a consistent writing practice. There are many paths to get there, so don’t be discouraged if this one doesn’t work for you. Still, if you’d like to try, 4 The Words also offers rewards both ways for referrals with crystals, which is how the site is paid. My code is YHOFN16526. If anyone out there reading this wants to write every day, I hope you’ll give this a shot. For me, it’s been an inspiration and a vehicle for success.
Here’s my current character avatar:
My avatar has a serious more-is-more attitude. Check out all my bling and flair!