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5 Minute Perseverance Game and Self-Editing

There are two major types of editing: self-editing and editing by someone else. The second one, from the point of an author, is rather connected to the reaction toward what the external editor suggested should happen to the initial text.

The 5 Minute Perseverance Game has helped me considerably in both cases.

In this blog post, I will address 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Self-Editing.

Independent on what you write, there are two components of self-editing and revision:

  • Verifying the text for possible errors and bits that could be improved, and
  • Implementation of the edits into the text.

Some authors might do both simultaneously; others do it separately. For example, I often print out extensive files, such as book manuscripts, read them on paper, and make notes which changes need to be made. Later I implement them into files. Afterwards, I repeat the procedure, sometimes varying the format of the text to be verified. One of the last versions I check is often in e-book format to see how it works there.

If the file is a shorter one (e.g., one page long) or it is an e-mail, then I usually verify and implement changes in one go.

I am sure that many authors do the same varying their practices depending on the text they are working with.

Let’s put the small files and e-mail messages aside. Then it is clear that the editing of large manuscripts might seem overwhelming. If you attempt to get done with it, I guarantee that you will become frustrated and make many mistakes.

Separating the components above into two distinct stages makes very much sense and is recommended by many writers. If you read guides on self-editing, you will see that many successful writers (Stephen King, Joanna Penn, and other) suggest reading and editing on paper.

The division of self-editing into reading plus making notes and first later implementing also allows you to be more thorough in your edits because during the incorporation of your edits into the text you might discover additional edits needed. So your writing becomes more qualitative.

But slicing the self-editing into two steps is not enough for larger documents. These two stages of self-editing are still too massive to do in one piece, especially when you self-edit one of the earlier drafts of your manuscript.

I can’t tell you exactly how little the self-editing steps should be for me to feel comfortable and doable. When the text flows nicely, then editing of a ten-page chapter might seem like an easy and small step, whereas a messy paragraph can send me into moaning, which is followed by tedious rewriting or cutting.

Reading about kaizen, the taking-small-steps philosophy and technique, helped to understand what was happening here.

Robert Maurer, whom I mentioned in the article “The 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Kaizen” in this series, has written the following in his acclaimed book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way :

“Even the small signs that you are resisting the small step — are an indication that the step is too big.”

So I can’t say for sure that editing a paragraph is a smaller step than revising a page or a chapter because I might resist editing a certain sentence or paragraph, but not an entirely different section.

Thus I can experience different parts of my writing in various ways when I am self-editing. But what is the indicator or tool that can help me here and find what I need to change in my writing pieces?

I was reminded of the best answer to this question as I recently watched an interview with Heidi Klum, a German-American supermodel, television personality, as well as one of the four judges at the America’s Got Talent (AGT) Show.

After the result’s show of the AGT 2017 finals, a reporter asked Heidi what advice she would give to the winner, Darcy Lynn, a 12-year-old ventriloquist. Without contemplating, Heidi answered, “Always to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it shows in your performance. That is always the key number one.”

In my book Cheerleading for Writers, which will appear soon this year, I call this tool “fun detecting antenna.” In writing, I discovered that if I let myself be led by what is fun for me, then my writing becomes a pleasure to read too. But if I am frustrated about a paragraph, it’s not fun for me to read. Then the probability is high that my readers won’t like it either.

Fun as a tool to find out what to do next is just brilliant. Because in case of a “problematic” sentence or paragraph, the step for me to take is to make it fun or simply delete it.

5 Minute Perseverance Game is both about making small steps with the projects we want to pursue and about having fun while making those steps. I am immensely happy for these two tools to be at hand for me in any activity I take on, including self-editing.

A few questions for contemplation: What is your usual practice when you self-edit your written pieces? Do you try to get it done in one piece (or larger sessions) or do you usually do edit in small chunks every day? And what helps you to identify which parts of your work-in-progress need to be modified and which can stay as they are?

On the picture above: I took five pictures of this snail on my way home after delivering my daughter at her daycare. Watching it climbing through the leaves was simply fascinating. This amazing being is proficient at making small steps.


Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

5 Minute Perseverance Game and Writing Something New

For me as a self-publishing author, writing books is always connected to:

  • Writing of the first draft
  • Self-editing
  • Professional edit and revision after that
  • Preparing and releasing for publication
  • Marketing

Each of these five areas contains multiple sub-tasks as well. Today, I will concentrate on the writing of the first draft.

Sometimes when I tell other writers about the 5 Minute Perseverance Game and that I use it for writing, I am met with a version of the following reaction, “I can’t write for only 5 minutes a day. I need an hour to find back into the thinking process of writing. To find back into my work-in-project.”

That made me ask myself whether I need a longer time to think of a subject or whether can I rely on intuition and just continue writing whatever comes on any given project.

I wrote all of my projects in bits and pieces making progress on a daily or weekly basis. There was not a single of the now ten published books for which I wrote the first draft from beginning to end every day or most of the day in a month or so. And I always have many projects in parallel even if I don’t take all of them into the 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

There have been various paces to each of the writing projects too. Some of them I wrote a few sentence or paragraphs s every day, and one of them I wrote one chapter per week, writing most of that chapter on one day, editing and posting on my blog on the other. Some of the contemplation on each chapter went on before writing and often ended up being different from what I planned or fantasized while taking a shower. This project was a novelette called “Nothing Is As It Seems” which originated from a writing prompt by my dear friend, writing teacher, and best-selling author, Menna van Praag.

Recently as I updated back-matter of the “Nothing is as It Seems.” I skimmed through its pages and noticed that there are some gaps in this novelette that could have been enhanced, for example, more dialog between siblings, the main character revealing more of her side of the story and not only what she was after. I wonder if I could have caught this if I would write the book in one piece instead once a week.

My guess today is that have I written it a little bit every day, my memory could have been more fresh between the writing sessions, and there would be fewer gaps in the story.

But this will remain a guess since I never tried this other option with the same story. For that latter case, I can only report on the other books and writing projects.

Let’s take the latest or rather the current one. I mean this article. I write it a few minutes every day. And I realize that even in case of everyday writing I need a few seconds to recall what this project is about. A few seconds, not minutes or hours. As I used to think before. And what else is important, it is to get immersed in the project during these seconds. To be fully present. Then mere moments become enough to take the thread where I left it and continue.

But also when I wrote “Nothing Is As It Seems” I did something similar, I read the previous chapter and some times several chapters before drafting the next time. Because of a longer gap (a week) and whirl of the thoughts on the project during this gap, I had to spend more than seconds to recall where I left the story the previous time. Every time there was a different mood, a different atmosphere which colored the chapter I was writing. The contemplations before sitting in front of my computer and the plans or rather fantasies of how the chapter would turn out rarely, or rather, never turned out as I pictured them when I took a shower or did something else. The text became a reality when I wrote it during those hours I spent in front of my laptop monitor and typing on its keyboard on that particular weekday.

I finished the first draft of the “Nothing Is As It Seems” before I wrote “5 Minute Perseverance Game” and before I started playing it regularly. But I have used the game to publish the novelette. More on this and using the game for other publishing projects in another post.

I’ve tested the 5 Minute Perseverance Game in respect to writing many times. And I will probably be doing this as long as I write since it turned out to be the least stressful and the most efficient approach to my writing.

But two of these times were my first ones. The very first time was when my dear friend and writing teacher, Menna van Praag, suggested to her students including me to play it so we could make progress with our writing projects. During the time of about a year where, we all attended Menna’s telephone seminars, and we all met on the internet in a Facebook group organized by Katrin Bauck, another dear friend, amazing artist, children’s writer, and Menna’s student too. The group had a beautiful name “Passionate Writers.” At one of the seminars, as many of us complained not finding time to write, Menna suggested to write 5 minutes a day for the work-in-progress and then report to the group how it went. All who participated in the call that day said yes to the challenge, including Menna. I remember making tremendous progress and loving the process of just writing. I realized that when you have only 5 minutes to write, this is what you do. You just write. You don’t contemplate too long what to write. You just do it.

Later I had what people call a writer’s block again. It was fear of the final results and what would people say, and other thoughts of that manner. Several months into this block I remembered the game suggested by Menna and how I felt during it. So I started writing again, writing in small bits every day and also asked my fellow writers how they were doing.

This and support by many wonderful cheerleaders helped me finish that book.

The second “first” time was when I moderated a round of this game for the first time. My friends at the Black Label Writers’ Club in Aalborg — which you guessed correctly was named after a whiskey brand; I heard that they had a bottle of it at their first meeting; therefore the name — have asked me once how I managed to pursue several different writing and non-writing projects at the same time. As I was sharing my experience, I suddenly recalled the game and suggested to play it within our club. I volunteered to create a dedicated Facebook Group for it and to moderate the game rounds.

A little into the game round, another friend, and writer, as well as an award-winning YA (Young Adult) fantasy author in Denmark, Sascha Christensen, sent me the following personal message: “The comment you made at the writers’ panel helped break my writer’s block.”

The comment she mentioned was one of my all-time favorite quotes, which I don’t know who said it for the first time. I have heard it in many variations from different people but never in my preferred form.

Here is how I like this quote most:

“You can’t edit an empty page.”

After saying “No problem” and “You are very welcome” to Sascha, and after chatting a while and exchanging on author’s challenges, I suggested her to join us in our perseverance game. After listening, or rather reading out what the rules of the game were, she agreed to play.

She commented time to time on the results and wrote, “Man, this concept is actually really effective for me. :D”

In one of the following rounds of the game, she let us in the group know that she finished the manuscript and sent to her publisher.

That was a fantastic result and reward for me to keep on playing the game and sharing my experience.

I had my own revelation during the game. I have written six thousand words in a book within a month while writing just 5 minutes, sometimes a bit more, at times a bit less, a day. On a few days of that month I didn’t manage to write, but on the most I did. Such a tempo would mean that with just a handful minutes a day I would manage to write about 70000 words within one year, which is enough material for a short novel or at least a novella.

That experience and the wisdom about an empty page shared with Sascha has revealed again and again the magic and power of just creating without too much contemplation about the process, not only in the writing projects but even in those of technical nature. But more on this in some of the future posts.

The sub-tasks of writing the first draft

Working on the first version of a book or article means for me the actual writing that is putting new words onto a page. But sometimes it also includes research, that however kept at the minimum as not to procrastinate from the actual writing, and of course the pre-edit. This pre-edit, as I call it, occurs before the self-edit and way before the professional edit. The pre-edit is happening (and I often omit it) between the writing sessions, which in my case are short, but sweet. The primary purpose of this pre-edit is just to remind myself where I stopped the project the previous time, make a note or a mini-edit here and there if I noticed something to be fixed already at this stage.

With time I realized that the session of the actual writing became sweeter and more fun when I stopped at the right moment. When the chunk of writing was done. Like a mini-story or a self-contained message “solidifying” itself on the screen or paper. But this stopping at the right moment often also includes for me writing a teaser for the next scene or chapter. Like a prompt for the next session. If I am not mistaken, that was what Hemingway did when he finished for the day. I read that he always started a new chapter or scene to make it easier for him to continue his writing the next day. By that, he tricked out the famous “writer’s block” and the empty-page fright.

When the job is done or how big should the job be?

There is nothing to compare to the feeling when the job is done. For the day or in general. And it is quite curious that we humans tend to want to make everything big, and to see everything huge being as the best: our houses, our cars, our achievements and even tasks. So the bigger the job, we think, then the greater satisfaction when we finish it.

But interestingly enough when we are happy, then we are happy. There is no happier than before. We are just excited and thrilled and blissful. Often by the time we achieve the big task (if we ever do, since the fear of failing a big task is much too overwhelming and pressing down), we are so exhausted and unhappy that we don’t have enough energy to celebrate.

However, after achieving something small and taking time to celebrate it, by giving oneself a point, a praise, a smile, we are most probably to have the energy, and it boosts us to do the next step.

The kaizen approach, which I mentioned introduced in the article “The 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Kaizen” is all about little steps, and “small moments.” That is how Robert Maurer, the author of the book “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way,” and who employed kaizen both for private and corporate clients, names these small and often ignored events.

In the chapter titled “Identify Small Moments,” he writes:

“The kaizen approach to life requires a slower pace and an appreciation of small moments. This pleasant technique can lead to creative breakthroughs and strengthened relationships, and give you a daily boost toward excellence.”

When it comes to writing, this is what makes it most exquisite to read. It is when you as a reader enjoy each moment, each word, each paragraph the writer puts on the page, and realize that it comes from the author’s enjoyment to create those paragraphs of text.

So, let’s savor each small step, each bit we write. Let’s let our fingers fly over the keyboard and find out in surprise that, in the short time we spent there, we wrote ten, twenty, a hundred, or a thousand words. And then let’s marvel. Did I write this just now?

What are your opinion and experience? Did you try to observe yourself when you write in bigger or smaller chunks per day? How does your experience of fun and stress change depending on how long you spend on writing a particular scene or project? Did you ever let yourself be satisfied and praise you for writing one paragraph?

What is this blog series about? You can find this out in its first blog post called “5 Minute Perseverance Game – Moving my Favorite Game to my Writing Blog.”

On the picture above: A view on a small flower meadow between cozy houses in a not far from where we live in Aalborg. This colorful mixture of all kinds of flowers reminded me of the crazy mixture of moments I have every day, also in writing. And in each other moment or angle from which I consider them, they appear to me differently.


And now on how my 5 Minute Perseverance Game (5MPG) has progressed in August and my plans (including the game design) for September.

Results for the round August 2017 of the 5MPG: 262 points out of 651 possible, which is 40% that is less than in previous months.

Conclusions as seen today: too ambitious planning, unrealistic plans on how many projects can be pursued on a daily basis, a wish to relax more and take it slow (apparently, a positive outcome of the vacation 🙂 ), a tendency and a desire to concentrate more on one project during any given day.

Plans and game design for the September 2017 round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game:

I have identified eight areas, each of them contains several projects or tasks. These are:

  1. Voluntary work for S1000D community (primarily for the Business Rules Working Group)
  2. Tools’ page content development for
  3. Non-fiction writing on various topics, including two books (one on business one on motivation and self-gamification), and blog post writing
  4. Fiction and Memoir writing (three books: two are fiction, and one is a collection of memoir essays)
  5. Marketing of Books, Tools, and Training Material (includes update, and publishing)
  6. Training Courses content development
  7. Admin work (incl. family matters, documents, business/home office matters, household)
  8. Free time, fun, health, and movement (including playing with and drawing for my children (they like little drawings under their dinner plates), reading, meeting friends, doing something for my body (like Yoga, dancing, other), straight posture, 7 hours sleep, etc.)

Differences from past months and new rules for the September round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game:

  • There can be more than one project or activities for each of the eight areas or types of activities.
  • If I get to attend to at least one project in each field of any given day, then I get two additional points as a bonus. For each full set of eight points (one for each area of those defined, above) I get two additional points.
  • If I finish a project or a large task resulting in external delivery, such as sending a manuscript to an editor or publishing a blog post or similar, then apart from getting a regular point for doing the task, I get five bonus points.
  • I can get more than one point for the same area, and even the same project on any given day. The condition here is that I get the point when a certain amount of work is done, and I change the activity. The change of the activity either I work a different project within the same area or work on a project from a different area, and then come again to the previous project.
  • I can decide by myself which of the project to address in any given area on any particular day. It has to do with external and my own deadlines.
    The time depends on the project, and on the activities of the given project. It can be ten seconds, often five minutes, but sometimes in exceptional circumstances even an hour. In general, a step should be self-contained, small (regarding its logic), doable and make sense.

I will report on this new design variant of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game in the coming article on this topic. The article will be how I experience this game during self-edits and revision of my work.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

When You Gamify Your Life, You Not Only Play the Game, but You also Design It*

Here is the main lesson learned in July’17 Round of my 5 Minute Perseverance Game.
I realized that I needed to write one more article before I was going into details of various use cases of self-gamification in my work and personal life.

And this article is about the necessity to be interested in the game-design.

If you, for example, are a manager and gamify the processes at work, then you will design games to motivate your colleagues and co-workers to carry out a task. When you gamify your life, you need to develop the games for yourself.

The interest in game design can, in fact, come naturally, and without effort. We all tried to bend the rules in our favorite games when we were children, or also later. We had that question looming over our heads was, “What if we play it another way?”

Sometimes we found that our changes made the games we played, even more, fun, and sometimes less.

So, we are natural game-designers. We might just not be aware of that.

Right after deciding to write the book “5 Minute Perseverance Game”, I started reading various books on game design. These books were later joined by books on gamification and Kaizen.

In Brian Tinsman’s book “The Game Inventor’s Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-playing Games & Everything in Between!”, I saw the following passage about Richard Garfield, the inventor of the game “Magic: The Gathering”:

“For years, Richard had been playing around with ideas for a game that was ‘bigger than what came in the box.’ Drawing inspiration from a classic science-fiction strategy game called Cosmic Encounter, he envisioned a game that set up rules, then let every card in the game break them in different ways. Further, no player would really know all the powers every card might have — players would constantly be surprised. Only a genius could bridge the gap between imagining such a game and actually designing it. ‘I had no idea if such a game could be designed.’ Richard recalls, ‘But I decided to give it a shot.’”

“Wow,” I thought, “Isn’t it what a successful manager, a great boss, a brilliant entrepreneur, or an amazing project manager is? A genius who can bridge the gap between having an idea for a product, service, or business or personal development and doing it and demonstrating how this can be done? And aren’t our daily lives at work (and at home) the games having certain rules but with so many surprises breaking almost each of the rules?”

After I realized that, I sat there for a few seconds with an open mouth. I was in a public place when I had this epiphany, so I hurried to close my mouth and take on a nonchalant look as soon as I observed what I was doing.

A bit later I understood that the more I considered my work as a strategic game the more creative, and the more serious about the task I became. Truly serious, that is without drama but with utter concentration and attention for the task at hand. I’ve discovered a new (seeming) paradox for myself. The more I considered my work as a game and took with that care that I had fun while attending to my duties, the more diligent and efficient I became.

Here is the list of reasons why I think everyone should learn how to design games:

  • Saying it with words of a chapter title in Brian’s Tinsman’s book on the game design, where he addressed one of the reasons why someone would want to develop a game, “It’s Fun.”
  • You’ll relax, and the task at hand will lose that dramatic scent we all are perfumed with when we take our lives and our work much too seriously.
  • You will have a glimpse into an incredibly fun and — in an inspiring way — strange industry, a magic land of its own.
  • You might find out how your favorite games were designed and by that learn a little about yourself and why you like them.
  • You might also find a connection between your favorite board or computer games and the job you are doing.
  • You’ll discover new ideas and be inspired to create your own ideas for the task at hand or your team.
  • Your newly won playful manner will make the people around you smile.
  • You’ll relax and be more and more pleasure to work and be with.
  • There will be less drama when something unexpected happens. You’ll be simply immersed in making the best possible next step of the game. In other words, you will be efficiently searching for a solution and realize it without wasting time on complaining of how the life turned out.
  • You will enjoy the time and project management because you will recognize what these previously annoying and routine tasks of time, project and self-management are, that they are the components of your own game-design. And suddenly, you’ll have fun attending to them.
  • And much more.

Another interesting thing I realized in July was that there was so far not a single round in the past fourteen months I play this game that I lost to my procrastination. Even in summer holidays. And a mirrored realization: I have not won it to zero either. Somehow I feel good about this. That is what probably a balanced life is: a constant improvement and also always enough space for further development, even if that space is organized sub- or fully consciously by my brain.

That also means I can also relax and become less critical about my abilities to design my own game. Or to worry, what is right and what is wrong when I plan a round. I can simply discover what ideas I have for every new game round, even if they might seem to repeat themselves. Because in truth they never repeat themselves, since every round, every project, every moment is new and shines in a new light if I only choose so.

So here are the results for July’17 round, which mainly consisted of fun, health and slowing down projects:

  • Do something for fun, which is neither reading nor writing. -> 29 points out of 31 possible
  • Develop content for “Tools” page on my site. -> 15 points out of 31 possible
  • Finish “Cheerleading for Writers” / Work further on memoir collection “Everywhere at Home.” -> 11 points out of 31 possible
  • Draft blog posts for Writing (especially, 5 Minute Perseverance Game), S1000D, and Business Rules. -> 11 points out of 31 possible
  • Reading about, brainstorming, or acting on book (and other) marketing, publishing, writing craft improvement. -> 12 points out of 31 possible
  • Sleeping at least 6.5 hours per night. -> 21 points out of 31 possible
  • Straight posture for at least 10 seconds a day. -> 31 points out of 31 possible
  • Sports, workout, or dance (at least two exercises). -> 29 points out of 31 possible
  • Read a book in Danish. -> 8 points out of 31 possible
  • Read a paperback book. -> 22 points out of 31 possible

Results Total for July 2017: 189 points out of 310 possible = 61 %.

With this report for July, I am stopping a detailed report on my projects. I will continue to play on multiple projects and report on the total points and the lessons learned. I realized that it might be hard for you to understand the details of each project I take into the game without an additional load of information. In order not to tire you, I will just share the lessons learned and epiphanies gathered along the way.

I also avoided reporting on lessons learned from each project in July. Instead, I will make a summary of the experience gained for each of my use cases of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

I will also post this material now on a more rare basis: about once a month. Again, in order not to tire you, but also to be able to provide content in other areas, I am working on.

For August, I am taking 21 projects into the game, of which 10 are concrete projects (as writing a certain book), and 11 are repeatable activities such as volunteer work, to develop a habit or to relax (exercising, keeping straight posture, taking care of the household and other).

References in this article:
* A part of this post’s content has been published in a slightly different form in an earlier blog post titled “Business Epiphanies: Managers Should Play Games and Learn How to Design Them.”

What is your opinion? Do you agree or disagree with the idea above that everybody should get some skills or at least a notion of game design? And why?

On the picture above: I discovered the results of this hobby project last Sunday as I walked downtown Aalborg past a hobby store with my family and friends. This large picture of a fairy tale princess made out of iron beads struck me with a beauty and realization: it was also done step-by-step, bead-by-bead. Most of the hobby projects take time and are often realized by taking small steps. Our satisfaction with the progress and sometimes sharing and showing the results to others are our rewards. And most of the time, there is no drama, no problem when we plan and realize the project. There is no fuss. Just the knowledge that we are doing it for fun and that we love what we do. So what would happen if we would treat any job, any task at hand at least a little bit as if it was one of our hobby projects?

What is this blog series about? You can find this out in its first blog post called “5 Minute Perseverance Game – Moving my Favorite Game to my Writing Blog.”

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels