Five Ways Word Games Have Helped Me As A Writer

I play a LOT of word games. My mom introduced me to them when I was a kid, and my husband and I have played them together since we first started dating.

The porch of a cabin in Arkansas made a serene Scrabble setting.

The porch of a cabin in Arkansas made a serene Scrabble setting. (My husband probably won this game — he’s really good.)

We took Scrabble with us on our honeymoon.

Zip-It rides along in my purse on nearly every road trip.

We’ve taken Boggle to a pizza restaurant.

And when we’re visiting my side of the family, we almost always play a game of Bananagrams.

I enjoy word games purely for the fun factor. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve noticed that they’re actually good for my writing. Some of the same skills used in playing these games can be applied when it’s time to put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. Here are just a few examples. 

Bob, my parents' Elf on the Shelf, got into the Bananagrams last Christmas.

Bob, my parents’ Elf on the Shelf, got into the Bananagrams last Christmas.

1. I’m playing with words — literally.

In most word games, the possibilities are determined by a limited set of letters. And within that limit, there’s a lot of room for creativity. What happens if I swap one vowel for a different one? How can I add to an existing word? Is there room to make two words at once? By manipulating the letters in front of me, I’m working my brain to come up with clever solutions. The strategy of working with words within a context is useful in the editing phase, when I’m trying to find just the right word.

2. I’m learning new words. 

It’s obvious that word games have the potential to be big vocabulary boosters. My husband and I have found several treasures in the Scrabble dictionary. Now, when I’ve got a z, I don’t get stuck playing zoo, zap, and zit all the time. There’s mazer, “a large drinking bowl,” and zarf, “a metal holder for a coffee cup.” One of our most memorable finds was wiver — a variation of wivern, which is “a two-legged dragon.” Also, blued is a word. It’s past tense for blue, which is apparently a verb for making something blue. Who knew, right? Though I’m not sure I’ll ever write about a wiver sipping coffee from a mazer in a blued zarf, it’s good to know my vocabulary is growing.

3. I’m getting away from the screen. 

As much as I love writing with a pen and paper, I tend to do most of my writing on the computer. When I add the time I spend writing to the hours I work as a copy editor, that’s a lot of screen time. As much as I enjoy what I do, I know it’s important to give my eyes a break. Playing word games allows me to stay in the word zone without being in front of a screen.

We would have been tied in this game, if I hadn't had one tile left over.

We would have been tied in this game if I hadn’t had one tile left over.

4. I’m doing something healthy.

Playing board games actually has a lot of health benefits, such as reducing stress, increasing cognitive function, and boosting endorphins through laughter. I know some word games don’t technically qualify as board games, but it seems like the same benefits  still apply. After a long day, playing a quick word game helps me unwind. When I’m less stressed, I’m more likely to take better care of myself. When I take good care of myself, I’m happier. And when I’m happy and healthy, I’m a lot more motivated to write.

5. I’m practicing perseverance.

Sometimes, I get stuck. I’ve got a q with no u, and there’s no place to play qi. I’ve got a pile of consonants with no vowels, or a row of vowels and no consonants. But I have to keep going or risk losing the game. (As much as I don’t like to admit it, I’ve got a strong competitive streak.) The determination it takes to push through a challenge in a word game can be applied in the face of Writer’s Block. And pushing through those difficult moments makes the reward even greater.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a game to play.

What about you? What are your favorite word games? 

One thought on “Five Ways Word Games Have Helped Me As A Writer

  1. Kelsey Gillespy says:

    HA! Oh my goodness, Kellie, I just saw this post and it was oxygen to my soul. Thanks for being you!

    P.S. I laughed out loud and risked waking everyone up when I read “Though I’m not sure I’ll ever write about a wiver sipping coffee from a mazer in a blued zarf, it’s good to know my vocabulary is growing.”

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