LEVEL UP sat on my TBR pile for a long time. Periodically I’d pick it up, read a few chapters, and say, “I really should finish this and review it” and then just…didn’t. LEVEL UP has short chapters, only a few pages each, so you’d think it would be a quick read, but there wasn’t enough content to keep me engaged.
The concept is simple. Melander wants to gamify writing. She takes typical writerly pitfalls like perfectionism or procrastination, and turns them into “quests.” She’s giving the same old advice that we’ve read in countless books and blogs. However, she tries to make it seem new and fresh by calling her advice “quests.” For example, in the chapter on social media, the “quest” is to turn off the internet for a set period every day. In the chapter on feeling overwhelmed by a task, Melander’s advice is to use a journal to examine feelings, take small steps, and reward yourself for a job well done. Even if you think of it as a game, it’s still pretty basic advice.
There are five parts to LEVEL UP: Vision and Plan Your Ideal Writing Life, Discover and Implement Your Best Practices, Master Your Mindset, Ditch Distractions, and Overcome Obstacles. The appendix lists “power ups,” which are creativity boosters like taking a walk, singing, doodling, and writing in new places.
The book has a logical flow to it. A beginning writer must first have a vision and make a plan, then make writing a regular habit, and then conquer higher-order problems like overcoming distractions and dealing with the unique problems of a creative life. None of Melander’s advice is bad, and in most cases gamifying a writing practice (or any practice) works. I, personally, have a calendar where I keep track of my writing goals, giving myself stars for completed work. I also have a dance party after every writing session. Both of those things are—in a small way—gamifying my writing practice. But I didn’t need a book to tell me how to do that. Writers are already very aware of the incentives and reward systems that will keep their butts in the writing chair.
I admire Melander’s intent, and applaud the way she encourages writers to find what works for them. But ultimately, that’s the problem with LEVEL UP. By trying to appeal to the greatest number of writers, Melander can only give well-worn, shallow advice while encouraging writers to implement her techniques in their own way. It will be easier, and more effective, to skip the middleman and simply try any gamification techniques that appeal you, since that’s what this book will tell you to do anyway.
LEVEL UP can be found here
Rating: 2 stars
I recommend Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner or
A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld instead of this book.