Review: Habitica.com for Fiction Writers
Succeeding as a writer isn’t just about technique and creativity. It’s also about discipline and developing good habits. That’s where Habitica, a habit-developing app and website, comes in.
Habitica isn’t just a tool for writers. Designed to help anyone who wants help in sticking to habits or routines, it uses gamification, turning the psychology of games into a driver to get useful tasks done.
Habitica’s roots in gaming are made obvious by its design. It presents itself as a fantasy roleplay game, one in which achievements are unlocked not by rolling dice or mashing computer keys but by carrying out chores. The front page presents you with a pixelated avatar, an image of the hero you will guide through the fantasy world of Habitica. Next to this are a series of bars showing your health, experience points, and at higher levels your mana. If that sounds like gobbledegook, there’s a good chance that Habitica isn’t the tool for you, because it leans heavily on traditional roleplay tropes. But if you enjoy journeys into imaginary worlds, then it has a lot to offer.
When you create an account in Habitica, you get your personalized avatar and stat bars. More importantly, you get three task lists – habits, dailies, and to-dos. Into these lists, you put the things you want to get done. Anything you want to do once a day or on certain days of the week goes into the dailies. Maybe that’s a daily writing burst or reading a chapter of a book on technique. Into the to-dos go one-off tasks. This might be plotting out your novel or sending a manuscript to an agent. And in the habits go the tasks you want to be doing as much as possible. It might be writing for half an hour, editing a chapter, commenting in an online writing group – whatever you’re encourage yourself to spend time on.
Once you’ve added your tasks, you’re ready to play the game. Every time you complete a task, you tick it off and the game gives your character gold and experience. If you fall into bad habits or don’t complete daily tasks then your character is punished, injured by the menacing monsters of Habitica. Alongside the task lists, you can create a personalized reward list, promising yourself chocolate, TV time, or some other entertainment whenever you earn enough gold. As you progress, you’re also rewarded by seeing your avatar improve, collecting pets, mounts, and equipment to help them in their missions.
While earning imaginary gold might not sound so rewarding, it gives you a little hit of pleasure when you complete a task. Those small hits accumulate, using the game to make you feel better about getting your writing done, and so encouraging you to stick at it. Social functions in the form of themed guilds and player parties mean that you can channel peer pressure or positive encouragement from others. Habitica can be a place to be motivated by other writers.
- Fun interface turns good behavior from a chore into a game.
- Psychological reinforcement helps develop writing routines.
- A handy place to keep a list of your writing-related tasks.
- Helps you to develop routines without draining all your willpower.
- Improving your avatar and going on adventures helps motivate writing.
- Fun design.
- Mobile app for tracking habits on the go, which syncs up with the web version.
- Simple to use and accessible for anyone familiar with roleplay games.
- Simple design means that you can’t organize tasks for complex projects, so also have to track these elsewhere.
- Assumes familiarity with roleplay games, so it may be inaccessible to those who aren’t gamers.
- If not managed properly, pressure from the game can create stress. This is easily managed by putting the game into sleep mode during holidays and other breaks from writing.
If you’ve dabbled even a little in gaming, then Habitica is a fun, accessible option for organizing your work and motivating yourself to keep writing. Though it can’t handle the complex project management of creating a whole novel, it can provide motivation along the way and help you to develop the habits that will get the novel written. If you’re struggling to stay motivated to write regularly, or you just want a little help in sticking to your resolutions, then this could be the tool for you.
About Andrew Knighton
Andrew Knighton is a Yorkshire based ghostwriter, responsible for writing many books in other people's names. He's had over fifty stories published in his own name in places such as Daily Science Fiction and Wily Writers. His steampunk adventure series, The Epiphany Club, is out now in all e-book formats, and the first volume, Guns and Guano, is available for free from Amazon or Smashwords. You can find free stories and links to more of his books at andrewknighton.com and follow him on Twitter where he’s @gibbondemon.