The Practice of Creativity

Tips to Jump-start Your June for Writing—Do You Know About The ‘Magic Spreadsheet’?

Posted on: June 9, 2014

June provides a great time for us to review the goals, commitments and visions we made at the beginning of the year. Do we even remember the commitments we made in January? Do our goals still take our breath away? Have we already accomplished some of them?

When you think about your writing goals are you feeling a sense of ‘Woo-hoo’ or ‘Uh-oh’? I hope you’re on the side of joy and excitement. If not, then it may be time to take stock of your writing strategies thus far and make some adjustments. There is still plenty of time to meet the writing goals that you set at the beginning of the year. This month, I’m going to suggest some tips that can support your writing.

Tip #1: Track your daily word count using the ‘Magic Spreadsheet’ (or your own system).

I discovered the Magic Spreadsheet from author Mur Lafferty. For many years Mur has hosted a terrific (and addictive) podcast for writers called I Should Be Writing. One of her MFA buddies, Tony Pisculli got inspired to design a support structure that would encourage one of the hardest practices of the writing life to maintain—daily writing. The story goes that he heard that author Cory Doctorow say that if you write about 250 words per day, in a year you’ll have a book. When it comes to writing, small increments of time and energy can yield tremendous results. And, Tony thought on most days, one can write at least 250 words.

So, he designed a system (a spreadsheet) where people can enter their daily 250 word count. He also added elements of ‘gamification’, meaning that it has fun elements–there are points awarded, levels to gain, etc. He circulated it to his MFA community and then over the last two years many other people discovered it and joined in. Currently, it is hosted on Google.

I think the Magic Spreadsheet is brilliant and is a great service to writers. This idea appeals to me on a variety of levels. I love group related activities that provide public support and accountability. I love the idea of friendly competition (it’s all on an honor system), and I love anything that kind of resembles a video game. Score, score, score!

The only thing that you do is enter your name, a few details and then move across the spreadsheet to enter your daily word count and with a click of a button, the program calculates all the other stuff. It’s like magic!


People are using the Magic Spreadsheet to make progress on their goals of finishing short stories, novels, plays, and even a few dissertations. You get more points for every day you write and every day you make the 250 word count (but you are of course free to enter in higher word counts).

A few days ago, on my birthday, I found a space on the spreadsheet and entered my name and word count. I wanted to start the spreadsheet on my birthday with the intention of writing every day from now until my birthday next year. I’m a pretty consistent writer, but have never tried to write 7 days a week, no matter what and with a minimum word count. It was a great way to kick off my birthday!

If you’re interested, you can listen to two podcasts here where Mur Lafferty interviews Tony about the Magic Spreadsheet’s origins and about the technology behind the scenes that makes it possible. You can also find all the info about the Magic Spreadsheet and how to join in here. There’s info at the link about the Facebook and Google+ groups. And, BTW, it’s all free! How is that for support?

Give the Magic Spreadsheet a try or set up your own system. Setting a specific and manageable word count (or page length) and sticking to it consistently is a fantastic way to build your writing muscle that is fun and sustainable.

6 Responses to "Tips to Jump-start Your June for Writing—Do You Know About The ‘Magic Spreadsheet’?"

Reblogged this on Heather E. Wright and commented:
I don’t usually reblog, but I think the Magic Spreadsheet described in the following blog would be a great motivator for writers. You and a couple of writing friends could design your own spreadsheet to share on Dropbox or something similar. When you reach a milestone, you can all celebrate with a coffee date or a movie. Teachers could use the spreadsheet idea with rewards along the way for longer projects to encourage students to not leave the majority of the work until the last minute.
I’m actually thinking about trying this on my own. Once school starts, I tend to give up a bit on my writing goals, but even at my busiest, I should be able to write 250 words a day. Hmmm. I’ll let you know what I decide.
If you try something like this with a writing group, or your class, or you’re already using the Magic Spreadsheet, please add a comment to let us know how it worked for you. Berger has updated her progress with the spreadsheet, and you can read about her success here:


Hi Heather,
Thanks for visiting and the re-blog. I’m am academic and LOVE you suggestion to get our students to try this, too. Great idea!


That’s what sharing good ideas does–helps people come up with more good ideas! All the best. H


I’ve searched over 1/2 hour to find an actual link to the Magic. What the heck is the direct link…Pleeeeze.


Hi Jeff,
Here is the direct link:
In my first post on the MS, you’ll find out about the history, but the directions on the link above are pretty clear. Good luck and if you get stuck, come back here or check on FB where the creators of the MS hangout in the group ‘Magic Spreadsheet where they can answer more questions.


[…] she only lived an hour away. We both like to read and write speculative fiction, are great fans of ‘The Magic Spreadsheet’ (a writing accountability tool), and are bloggers. Samantha’s wonderful blog is called ‘The […]


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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