the bookwyrm method (archived post)

by benjamin hollon on april 4, 2020

Some of you may know that I run a reading group online. I started it back at the beginning of November, and it's already passed a thousand members (that's more than seven new members per day). It's been so popular and has helped so many people that I thought I would take the next few posts to explain how they work and the thought process behind them.

My first reading challenge was "Slay the Bookwyrm." I started running this challenge before I created my own reading group, running it as a side challenge in someone else's group. It was a hit and helped so many people that I decided to dedicate a whole group to this type of challenge, a group I dubbed "Gamified Reading."

The idea behind the Bookwyrm Method is to hit your reading goals without letting your reading get in the way of other essential tasks you have to get done by dealing damage to an imaginary monster called the "Bookwyrm" (not a typo).

Once you join the challenge, you are asked to set a reading goal, one you will aim for every week. There are suggested minimum goals, but there are really only two rules: the goal must be both achievable and challenging. You don't want it to be impossible to reach your goal, but you also don't want it to be too easy. If, after testing your goal, you find that it doesn't reach either of those criteria, you can change it.

Once you have set your reading goal, you are challenged to read toward your goal every day. If you read something toward your goal, you deal the Bookwyrm 1 point of damage. If you don't read, the Bookwyrm regains 1 HP (Health Point) and also gains 1 Power. If the Bookwyrm reaches 25 power (collected from everyone in the challenge), it has a special attack that influences everyone. If it runs out of health (once again, all the damage from everyone in the challenge is taken into account), the challenge is over and the next round begins.

Once a week, you are asked if you reach your reading goal. If you do, you score five points of damage. If you don't, the Bookwyrm regains 5 HP and 1 Power.

There is one last task. If a user finds that his or her reading has gotten in the way of something else important, he or she admits that they have "given into the Bookwyrm." If this happens, the Bookwyrm regains 3 HP and 1 Power.

Once a week, every user must report back in the public chat or face disqualification.

And that's it.

Now, I feel like I'll unpack why I think this challenge works so well. Some of you already know how the challenge works, but you might not understand why it works. Here's my best guess.

As far as I can tell, three main factors make this challenge so successful:

  1. Working as a Group — Everyone contributes together to defeat a common enemy, the mythical Bookwyrm. If a user does well, everyone does well. If a user doesn't, everyone suffers. This creates a sense of teamwork. You won't believe the number of encouragements I've seen members giving each other.
  2. Adjustability — In most reading challenges I've seen, you are asked to hit a set goal. For example, "read two books per week." In my challenges, however, I recognize that everyone is different and has different capabilities. I frequently tell people my philosophy about reading speed: There is no such thing as a slow reading speed, only one that can be improved. People are challenged to increase their goals if they feel they can do better but aren't pressured to do more than they can handle.
  3. Accountability — Everyone reports in the same chat, where everyone can see how they're doing, and they can see everyone else's. Now, I don't think that this is creating undue pressure to do well, but it gives people a sense of achievement and having pleased others if they do well and encourages them to do better if they haven't. I've been blessed with a community of readers that is very encouraging and tolerant of others.

Applying the Bookwyrm Method

I firmly believe that the Bookwyrm method is useful for more than reading. If you set your mind to it, you can adjust the Bookwyrm Method to anything you want. Just keep the fundamentals the same: setting a goal, doing a bit each day, and being honest when it gets in the way of something else and setting your priorities.

If you successfully use the Bookwyrm Method for anything else, let me know! I'd be glad to take a look and give you tips. I've even publicized examples of people using my methods in other contexts in my guild in the past, so if you start a challenge using any of my methods, let me know!

Want to join?

If you've decided that you want to improve your reading experience through my challenges, it's an easy process! I run my challenges on a platform called Habitica, which is dedicated to making setting good habits and breaking bad ones fun. If you'd like to join in on my portion of the website, follow the link below and look through the links in the Guild description to find the challenge you want.

Not convinced that this challenge is for you? I have a massive list of testimonials (also in the description) from people who have loved my challenges. Take a look through them and see what you think. My favorite testimony about the Bookwyrm Method comes from @seaplusstudent:

"You run the only reading challenge I've seen that acknowledges reading as procrastination! Thanks for helping me find a good balance of how I use reading for myself :)" - @seaplusstudent

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