I have a confession…I have a few bad habits.
I won’t list all of my habits except to say that procrastination is one of my major ones. For example I’ve been know to put off unloading the dishwasher for longer than it would take to actually just get in there and do it. Another way I procrastinate (i.e. avoidance) is play computer games, one of my favorite being Spider Solitaire. Since I’ve played it for years, you’d think I’d have better scores than I do, but alas, no. I play two suits having never graduated to the most advanced level. It is not uncommon for me to have a hand running in the background whenever I’m writing. (In fact, the number of games I played while writing my doctoral dissertation is flat embarrassing!)
But last night I realized that Spider Solitaire wasn’t just procrastination but that there are some lessons that can be learned from this game besides what card goes where, even though that’s important. So I thought I’d share writing lessons learned from Spider Solitaire.
- You have to open the game to play. The same is true with writing. Too often people dream of writing, but they never take that first step of putting word to paper (or to computer screen.) You can win if you don’t play.
- You have to know what cards go where. You can’t play a black eight on a red five. The rules won’t allow it. But you can play a black eight on a red nine while you wait for a black nine to open into play. Writing has rules too. Some of them are concrete rules. For example, you have to use a reasonable font and font size Manuscripts written in Curlz MT or in 18 font and in BOLD are doomed from the start.
- You have to plan your moves. You can move a card to more than one place. Study the board. Which move gives you more bang for your move? The same can be said for writing. Sometimes you really believe in a story. You know it’s a story your readers would like but for whatever reason, publishers have passed. It may be time to look at self-publishing it. On the other hand, don’t move too fast and miss a more optimum play. Maybe you haven’t found the RIGHT publisher or maybe you haven’t played enough (i.e. written enough) to know the right move. Think. Plan. Study.
- Use the hint or help if you need to. With Spider Solitaire, you can hit the “M” key and the game will show you possible moves. Same is true with writing. Hit the “critique group” key and those folks can help you. Hit the “Professional Organization” key (like Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime or a dozen other writers’ groups.) Professional writers organizations have lots of hints (and education) than can help you be a successful writer.
- Just because you CAN move doesn’t mean you should move. See the note in #4 about the hint key? Sometimes when I hit the “M” key, lots of different moves are shown, but some of those moves won’t do anything in helping me move forward and win. It’s simply moving cards from one pile to another. In writing, there are lots of moves you can make (print publishing, digital publishing, self-publishing) but not all moves are equal even within each publishing options. For example some digital publishers have stronger reader bases and the potential for more sales than a very small press. Or with self-publishing, you get your book out there but now you have to do all the work to get the attention of readers without the network of built-in readers an established publisher might have. So just because you CAN publish doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
- Know when you can’t win and it’s time to start a new game. Sometimes as I’m playing, I realize that no matter what I do, what steps I take, I’m not going to win that hand. With writing, we face the same decisions. We all have that book under the bed that sounded like a good idea at the time or a scene that doesn’t work. As writers we have to know when to let it go and move on and open a new story (or hand of cards!)
- Every time you play, you learn something…your skills improve. This is so true with games and with writing. Very few people start out as wonderful writers. We learn the craft as we write and write and write.
- You never, ever give up. Just when you think the game is over, you find one card that can be moved, much starts a parade of cards moving, and before you realize it, you win. This is so true with writing I don’t know where to begin. I had a friend who told me after ten years of writing and getting nowhere that she was going to give it one more year and then she was done. About 3 months later she sold to Harlequin. Now she’s sold multiple books to Harlequin. What if she’d given up? So if you want this, if you want to win, you have to keep trying.