Is It a Word Game or a Math Game?

I have been playing Words With Friends lately. I like it because it’s a fun challenge to see what kinds of words I can come up with. That’s how I have always approached Scrabble – as a word game. This approach means I get beaten pretty frequently, usually by people who play it as a math game.


For me the fun is in figuring out the most interesting word I can make using the letters at hand. I don’t use a dictionary, and will admit that sometimes I put letters together in an order that seems like it should be a word and hit “submit” just to see if it actually is a word. That’s how I found out that “za” is a word. (Webster’s says: “an old solfeggio name for B flat; the seventh harmonic”)


People who play Scrabble as a math game take a different approach. They look for the spaces on the board that will yield the most points, then check to see if they have any letters that can go there. It is a subtle difference, but spells defeat for me more often than not. Pondering my frequent Words with Friends defeats made me think about how the word game vs. math game lesson could be applied to a copy writing business.


If you see yourself primarily as a writer, you probably fall into the “word game” category. Writing is your first and most important task, and you likely fit the “writer” stereotype – creative, bad with numbers, usually late, a loner, etc. To be successful, your writing will have to be much better than average, and you will probably need help on the sales and business side of things. If you write fiction, look for an agent and a publisher, and if you write non-fiction, look for a partner who excels at sales and networking.


If you primarily see yourself as a business owner, you probably fall into the “math game” category. You probably handle customer service and sales activities first, you may have chosen your niche based on market demands rather than what you are interested in, and you might find yourself squeezing writing in at the end of the work day.


There’s nothing better or worse or wrong or right about either way of looking at a writing business. Personality, ability, training, and habits all go a long way to determining how you conduct your business, but if you aren’t happy with what you are doing or how you are faring financially, you can take deliberate steps to change your approach.


If you are more a of a “word game” business person, but you’d like to make more money, or write about a wider variety of topics, you can begin to pay more attention to the math part of your business. If you are a “math game” type, but you long for more creative freedom and you’d like to spend less time dealing with the administrative part of your work, then you can begin to block time out of your schedule to work on creative projects.


Most people who make a living by selling creative services feel this pull between running a solid business and doing what we love. It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to run a creative business, but there are ways that will allow you to make more money faster. Identifying your own strengths and playing to them will help you find the most comfortable place for you.

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