My husband and I have been playing Scrabble since our high school courtin’ days. He’s the “Numbers Guy,” and I’m (supposedly) the “Words Girl.” Guess who wins at Scrabble almost every time? I’ll give you a hint — it’s not me.
But, I’ve learned exactly why I come out behind — lack of strategy. I’m usually the over-eager player who puts down any word that appears on my wooden tile holder, regardless of points. However, my husband’s competitive nature (and endless chanting of, “I’m the champion!”) finally got to me. I played our last round with patience and calculation, and,…I won! As I kicked butt and took names, I realized the same strategies could also be applied to everyday life, as well as the process of writing. A few tips to share…
Keep your eyes open, and increase your vocabulary. Study the Scrabble dictionary, and your chances of winning will go up, up, up — the game can turn around with one great word. Everyday Life: Never stop learning. When you stop growing as a person, you might as well just…stop. Writing Life: There’s always room for improvement. Don’t be satisfied with having a beginning, middle, and an end to your story if it doesn’t sing.
- Trade your letters in when you’re stuck. Yeah, you lose a turn, but better to snag some usable letters than try to find imaginative ways to place your seven “I” tiles. Everyday Life: Unhappy at work? Update that resume’ and start looking. Friendship full of drama? Time to get out. Kids driving you crazy? Trade them in. Wait…um…never mind about that one. Writing Life: Edit, edit, edit. When a piece still isn’t working after drenching amounts of sweat, it may be time to move on to a different project.
- Avoid placing your “Z” and “Q” on an unmarked square. Unmarked squares mean no extra points. It’s a waste that (almost) brings my husband to tears. Everyday Life: Utilize your talents. There’s something you were meant to do here — figure it out, and get to it! Writing Life: Write with purpose. Write for money, or joy, or therapy. But, if you choose to write, don’t waste time whining about it — just write.
- Plan one turn ahead. Try not to open up a triple word score for your opponent, or trap yourself in a corner. Everyday Life: From daily errands and weekly dinner menus, to graduate school and retirement funds — planning ahead can save many (many) headaches down the road. Writing Life: Do your research, and know the market. Find the agent, magazine or publishing company that best fits your topic and style. Blindly submit into the dark publishing void, and you will get burned.
- Don’t put down the first word that comes to mind. Take your time, and choose wisely for the highest possible points. Everyday Life: This means patience, and lots of it. Patience when you have a thirty minute wait at the doctor’s office. Patience when you’re on your fourth round of chauffeuring the kids for the day, and patience with yourself — expecting perfection can be self-defeating. Writing Life: Be patient with your work, and your output. Accept the process — checking email 1,058 times a day will not make an editor’s response come any quicker. And, don’t beat yourself up when the words don’t flow.
- Proceed carefully, but get rid of those hard-to-place letters when you can. Put that “K” down ASAP, or you’ll be minus 5 at the end of the game. Everyday Life: Grab those opportunities before they disappear — the available babysitter, a ticket to a sold-out concert, or a chance to volunteer. Writing Life: Determine when your work is ready for submission, and then let it go.
And last, but not least…
- When you finally win at Scrabble, write a blog post about it so you can really rub it in. And, that’s all I have to say about that one.