In Pac Man they’re power pellets, in Angry Birds they’re super seeds. Whether it’s gobbling ghosts or supersizing a bird, ‘power-ups’ keep a games master going. But it’s not just avid gamers who can benefit from a dose of super-charged energy. Real life writers can make use of power-ups to keep them forging ahead with their creative project.
Games designers use power-ups as a way to inject a little adrenaline into game play – they stop the game becoming monotonous and boring and they give the player something to look forward to so they keep playing.Psychologist and games designer extraordinaire Dr Jane McGonigal writes about how everyone can incorporate power-ups into their everyday lives in SuperBetter – a book which explores how adopting a ‘gameful mindset’ to our lives can make us more productive and happy.
McGonigal writes that whilst a real life power-up can be anything, it must be something that’s simple, quick and easy to do. Nothing too costly or too fancy – a small reward or a treat to keep us going and make the writing slog more bearable.
Here’s our 5 step guide to using power-ups to super-power your writing:
1. Power-up the effort, not the outcome
The amount of effort you put into writing can’t really be measured by words on a page. Some days you write hundreds of words only to rewrite – or delete – them the next. But that doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made. Sometimes writing in short energetic bursts can move your work on in leaps and bounds. So, when you’re thinking of when to use your power-up reward the effort you put in. Think quality – not quantity.
2. Set your goal and power-up at the same time
When setting your writing goal, always plan in how you’re going to power-up once you’ve achieved it. Let’s say your goal for the month is to write the first chapter of a book and each day you want to write for an hour. Make sure you set an appropriate power-up reward for each daily increment – then plan in a visit to your favourite restaurant to celebrate getting to the last day of the month.
Taking our inspiration from games design, we think there are four different levels of power-up and once you know what these are then it’s time to start setting the reward that’s appropriate to each.
- Level 1: Here, doing the writing itself is enough to make you feel pumped. No power-up required.
- Level 2. Give yourself a level two power-up when you’ve had a good writing session. Treat yourself with something free or inexpensive, but not so mundane that it’s part of your daily routine.
- Level 3. Way to go! Make sure you reserve a level three power-up for when you’ve hit an important milestone in your writing. So, a slightly bigger treat required.
- Level 4. Now it’s time to pop open the champagne! Here you deserve a bigger reward – celebrate when you’ve achieved your goal in full.
4. Don’t pump up the power too much
It’s important to reward yourself with power ups – but not too much or too little – and do it at the right stage. If your reward is too small then you’ll lose motivation with your project. However, if your reward is too big and grand then it all becomes about getting the prize rather than what you need to do to get there. So, best to open that magnum of champers when you’ve finished the book…
5. Find the power-up that works for you
There’s no such thing as a universal reward – one person’s treat is another’s trick – so think about what will motivate you. The key thing is to understand what each type of reward is for – and then apply this to you. For example, some people treat themselves by making a decent cup of coffee or tea – or having a quick snack to keep them going. Other writers prefer something more physical – having a stretch, going for a walk or a run to clear the head. Use whatever power-ups you choose, make sure they work for you and keep you motivated and moving forward with your project.