Make a writing bingo board

A consistent goal of mine is to write more, and I’m trying out a new way to make sure it happens.

Blockers
In past years, I hadn’t set specific, objective goals for my writing. That meant I had no way to check in throughout the year and notice early if I was drifting off-track.

Ungameable goals
Goals are often too easy to game.
It’s common for people set a goal of the number of books they’ll read in a year. Then, I’ll hear from them: “I’m super interested in this new book, but it’s long, and I’m already behind on my reading goal. I’ll pick something shorter instead.” Their goal has made them optimize for sheer number of books, rather than the true value, how much they could get from their reading. (Goodhart’s law at play.)

This is what makes me hesitant to set just a numerical goal for my writing. I can dash off short personal essays as easily as I would dust off a bag of popcorn. I can imagine hitting a numerical goal for writing but still feeling dissatisfied because I hadn’t stretched my abilities.

Bingo!
At Mailchimp, the wonderful Shauna Birkett makes seasonal bingo cards for reading. Here’s the most recent one:

Employees say this format’s great for encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone and try new genres.

I realized that this bingo board concept could be similarly powerful for my writing goals.

Making the squares
To decide what squares should be on my bingo board, I did some reflecting:
What all did I write this past year, and what did they teach me?
What are some of my favorite pieces ever? (My essays on memory and Ben Franklin came to mind).
What are my broader life goals, and how does writing feed into them?

Based on that, I decided on 5 categories for my bingo squares:

  • ideas essay: arguing for how we should think about something (like this on museum-going)
  • something new: exploring something I’m curious about and writing up first impressions
  • sharing my knowledge, mostly about my career in tech
  • experiments in different genres/formats
  • sharing life updates (via my newsletter)

The category names are pretty clunky, but I hope they’re specific enough to guide me well.

So here’s my bingo board:

Make your own bingo board!
Here’s a template you can to make your own bingo board: just copy the slide into a new Google Slides presentation and edit. Big thanks to Kevin for designing these.

Variations

  • How to win: I’m doing blackout bingo (goal is to cover every square). You could also do normal bingo (goal is to cover a whole row or column) and just make the squares harder 🙂
  • Size: I’m choosing to do a 4×4 = 16 squares. But you can do the normal 5×5, or a 3×3, or whatever size you’d like.
  • Squares: I’m specifying formats of writing for each square, but I bet topics would also work great (write about a pet, a food, etc), or broader goals (do X pitches, get Y readers on a piece, etc).

If you make one, I’d love to see it! Tag me on Twitter – @carrietian.