Morning Pages and Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto III for iPad

Grand Theft Auto is a stoopidly entertaining game. You know the drill, progress from smalltime lowlife to city-straddling crime kingpin via a series of improbable car chases. The port of GTA3 to iPad is a real achievement, bringing a “full console” experience to a portable format. In a session I’ll typically complete one or two small missions, crash a bunch of cars, and spend half the time running cluelessly around the city looking for health and armour restores. At the end, I’ll quit the game, check the time, and think “f*ck me, was that really two hours?”

Fun as it is, GTA is a massive time sink. This, I had to remind myself, is why I never bought an X-Box or PS3 – because I would lose whole weekends to the damn thing.

My big problem – and I know I’m not alone here – is productivity. Actually getting the things done that I say I’m going to. The blogpost, that short story rewrite, the legendary screenplay (“think Goodfellas meets The Princess Bride with shades of Hable Con Ella”).

It’s clear I’m not writing enough. How to fix that? The simple answer would be stay up late/get up early. I’m working on those two. Honest.

I love tools that make me feel more productive. Initially I thought 750 Words might be another productivity-boosting tool.

The idea – supposedly inspired by something in “The Artist’s Way”, though it’s a common enough concept – is to produce a burst of untrammeled automatic writing in the morning, before doing anything else. The 750 Words site gives you a place to do that, and software to log those words. You can also track variables like hours slept, mood, whether you got laid the night before… whatever you feel the need to track.

The point of this exercise is that it’s a massive clear out, a total brain dump that clears the mind of extraneous worries so that it can focus on the creative task at hand.

Now this is fine if you’re then going to spend another 8 hours writing. I was doing something similar, on a smaller handwritten scale. But what if you’re struggling to carve out enough time as it is?

750 Words tracks you day by day. It knows when you’ve skipped a turn. Then you feel guilty, because not only are you not keeping up with your writing, you’re also not keeping up with your pre-writing exercises.

There are sites that use gamification well, such as Memrise. There I’m keen to collect points and creep up a leader board – there, it’s all in service of learning, i.e. the work at hand.

With 750 Words I felt like it was just more time I should have spent doing something more constructive. Maybe I’ll go back when I’m struggling with my second novel. But for now, no.

So I deleted my 750 Words account. I uninstalled Grand Theft Auto. Instead, I rebooted my blog. Writing with a sense of purpose. FAR more productive.

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