writing & games

So, one of the achievements of my spring break was moving forward on two separate writing projects. And the success of that kept my brain feeling sort of awake and ticklish today even though I was busy writing memos and dealing with bureaucracy and simpering secretaries for something like six hours at the office.

One of the ways I know that I'm really working, really writing, or at least getting awfully close to putting real draft words on the page (as opposed to all those pretend freewriting, notetaking, outlining words) is that I start playing computer games. (Not role-playing games or anything complicated. Just puzzle, arcade, or board games that you can stop & start easily.)

That might sound counterintuitive. But when I'm depressed or on vacation, I rarely play games. If I'm working, I use them as a way of taking little breaks that energize my logical circuits. At least that's my theory.

It's been different games at different times. Tetris, on my old DOS computer, got me through my first few years of graduate school. When I had to get a new machine, I wound up playing FreeCell. My writing buddy was addicted to it, and she got me doing it too. That was the main thing for my dissertation writing years. A few years ago I went through a Reversi phase on Yahoo games -- I still play sometimes, but it never really worked as a writing break, because of the distraction of having to wait for a person to play with in real time. Then I downloaded Clickomania, a completely addictive freeware game. (There are other variants of it -- JT's blocks, which is on Yahoo, is basically the same thing, with different scoring.) That's mostly what I've relied on for the past few years. Oh, and Snug, a great little puzzle game.

I'll write for 45 minutes or so, then play a game for a few minutes. If I get stuck on an idea or a paragraph that just isn't working out, I'll go play a game to distract my mind. When I come back, it's usually clear what I need to do.

I was thinking the other day about my game strategy for writing, and about how great Tetris was. There have been lots of experiments to discover how the brain processes Tetris, and why it's so addictive. I was relieved to learn that something like 60% of people who play regularly dream about it -- I used to, when I was writing & playing a lot. Tetris is apparently a real workout for your brain. (A good article with references to others is here.)

Since I have frequently lamented the fact that I think I used to be smarter than I am now, maybe it's all in the games I'm playing. So I downloaded a Tetris clone two days ago...we'll see what happens.