Make a writing bingo board

As 2020 draws to a close, I have a nagging feeling that I didn’t write enough this year. I’ve felt like this pretty consistently for the last many years.

What went wrong?
I didn’t set specific, objective goals, so I’m constantly changing the goalposts. And because of that, there was no way to check in throughout the year, to notice earlier if I was drifting off-track.

Numerical goals
I tend not to like purely numerical goals.
Sometimes people set a goal of number of books to 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.” The goal optimizes for sheer number of books read, not your interest or how much you’d get from reading a specific book.

Similarly, if I were to just set a goal for number of pieces, I could definitely hit it. I can dash off short personal essays as easily as dusting off a bag of popcorn. It’d be easy for me to meet this goal and still feel dissatisfied.

Beyond just a number, I also need specificity.

To go back to reading, my employer, Mailchimp, gives us seasonal bingo cards for reading, created by the wonderful Shauna Birkett. They encourage us to read beyond our normal tastes.

I want to try a bingo board for writing: it would combine specific goals with an overall numerical goal.

Goals → squares
To decide what squares should be on my bingo board, I made 3 lists:

  1. everything I published in 2020 and how I felt about them
  2. my favorite pieces ever, like this piece on memory or on Ben Franklin
  3. my general life goals and how writing feeds into each of them.

Based on that, here are the categories for my 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
  • experimenting with genre/format
  • sharing life updates (via my newsletter)

These category names feel pretty clunky, but are hopefully specific enough to be useful.

So here’s my board:


  • How to win: I’m doing blackout bingo (goal is to cover every square). You could also do normal bingo (goal is to cover an entire row) and just make the squares harder 🙂
  • Size: I’m choosing to do a 4×4 = 16 pieces (a conservative goal in hopes that some of next year will be taken up by fun activities that are possible again…) But you can do the normal 5×5, or a 3×3, or whatever size you’d like.
  • Squares: I’m specifying types of work. You could also do topics for squares (write about a pet, a food, etc) or goals (do X pitches, get Y readers on a piece).

Here’s a template you can use – just copy the slide into a new Google Slides presentation and edit. Big thanks Kevin for designing these.

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

March update

3/16 down! I have no idea what I’ll do for the “writeup of something new”s….