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Nityesh
Nityesh

Posted on • Originally published at dev.to

What video games teach you about dealing with the Writer's Block

All video games share 2 defining traits:

  • A Goal - The goal is the specific outcome that players will work to achieve. It focuses their attention and continually orients their participation throughout the game. The goal provides players with a sense of purpose.

  • A Feedback System - The feedback system tells players how close they are to achieving the goal. Real-time feedback serves as a promise to the players that the goal is definitely achievable, and it provides motivation to keep playing.

When implemented well, these traits make doing the hard, challenging work in a game so addictive.

Recently, scientists have extended the importance of these traits to inspire action in the real life as well. Vague goals and delayed feedback often kill our motivation to do challenging work.

Writing well is challenging. Therefore, it's important that you have clear goals and small feedback loops to keep yourself motivated.

In the next 3 minutes, I'll tell you how...

The Hurdles

Level-4 of writing well is about creating a good goal and feedback system of writing articles.

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This system will help you avoid the much dreaded - Writer's Block!

Writer's Block is the mythical devil that trips writers and leaves them paralysed and struggling to express themselves.

You should beware of it - it manifests itself as 2 hurdles:

Hurdle #1: Lack of ideas

You want to write something good but you can't think of anything interesting.

Whatever you can think of feels either uninteresting, unimportant or unoriginal. You have no idea where to start. You simply can't focus.

Hurdle #2: Lack of motivation

Sometimes, you have an exciting idea in mind but you are still paralysed by a lack of motivation.

Maybe the idea feels too grand, too important and thus, too daunting for you to work on it. The thought of completing a whole article makes you exhausted before you even start.

Overcoming the hurdles to finish Level-4

Writing a new article from scratch leaves your whims in control of your writing. It leaves you prone to the Writer's Block. You write only when inspiration strikes while other times, you simply sit and tear your hair.

But good writers don't wait for inspiration to strike.

"Great creators work whether they feel like it or not, whether they are in the mood or not, whether they are inspired or not. Success doesn't strike; it accumulates."

  • How To Fly A Horse by Kevin Ashton

Therefore, you should adopt a process where you can take small steps to succeed all the time. Even on your bad days.

I analysed the creation process of some writers and discovered one thing that was common in all their processes.

An Idea Evolution Funnel

Contrary to what you may think, a lot of successful writers aren't attached to one big idea at a time. Instead, they are always working on evolving a bunch of ideas.

This doesn't show a lack of focus - it's what allows them to be disciplined, consistent and professional.

  1. Upon the birth of a new idea, they put together a quick version that captures the core.
  2. This allows them to put in the real world and get early feedback on it.
  3. Finally, based on the feedback, they select the ones that show promise, double down on them and graduate them to the next stage.

Therefore, I call this flow of ideas an "Idea Evolution Funnel".

How it helps you

Getting in the mindset of working on your Idea Evolution Funnel makes writing feel like playing a video game:

  • It gives you small goals - Each stage in the funnel is shorter than the next. This means that you don't get exhausted early. Which, in turn, means that you have the energy to take more attempts and only graduate the very promising ideas to the next stage. No wasted efforts.

  • It gives you small feedback loops - You get to publish at each stage and receive feedback. This gives you motivation to sit down and write instead of procrastinate.

Idea Evolution Funnels of 3 famous Davids

Once you understand the concept of the funnel, you begin seeing it everywhere.

To demonstrate the ubiquity of this funnel, I'm going to pick 3 people who share not just the same name but also the same process of generating ideas.

What's the probability that 3 Davids in the world - who don't know each other - share a common process of creation?

David Perell, the young "Writing Guy", explains his funnel for developing ideas as such:

  • Share ideas in casual 1-on-1 chats with friends
  • Share ideas with 100k+ Twitter followers
  • Share ideas with thousands of weekly newsletter subscribers
  • Write lengthy blog posts that become an "instant" hit

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Here's the funnel for David Sedaris, the humourist:

  • Jotting interesting things from daily life in a handy pocket notebook
  • Testing drafts in front of a small live audience
  • Writing articles in The New Yorker
  • Compiling them into bestselling books

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David Heinemeier Hanson (DHH) along with his co-founder - Jason Fried - has developed a more modern Idea Evolution Funnel:

  • Tweets
  • Tweetstorms
  • Articles on Basecamp's blog (Signal V. Noise)
  • Bestselling business books

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This lesson will get your through Level-4 of writing well. Check out the previous articles in the series to learn about levels 1-3.

In the next few days, I'll publish lessons to take you through the 5th level. So, follow me on Twitter and here to get the updates.

You can also sign up for the Clear Writing, Clear Thinking email workshop to get everything over email.

Along with the lessons, the workshop also contains small tasks that you can complete to practice what you learned.

I'm giving it all away for free!

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