I was recently in a conversation with a friend who is having difficulty finding the time to write, and I found myself rhapsodizing about my favorite productivity app like a LuLaRoe seller trying to rope in a new subordinate. Then I realized that I've given this exact same speech to every other writer who's struggling to get butt-in-chair time, so it's probably time that I just share my love with the world.

I love, love, love Habitica.

The usual disclaimers: I have absolutely no affiliation with Habitica beyond being a satisfied user. I get nothing if you join. I got nothing for writing this blog post. Habitica's owners have absolutely no idea that I'm writing it at all. But it's one of the three things that got me from writing a 4,000 word short story every year to finishing a novel draft in seven months, and I want everybody else to have that kind of progress. (The other two things are a regular writing partner who can hold me accountable and a supportive spouse, but those are a lot harder to find than useful apps. More's the pity.)

If you haven't heard of it, Habitica is a general productivity app and website that applies the Skinner-box addictiveness of online games to your to-do list. You make your list of daily or weekly chores, as well as some to-dos that don't have a specific deadline. Every time you check off a chore or a to-do, you get experience points and gold, which you can spend on armor and weapons to dress up your cute little customizable avatar. If you don't check off a chore that you were supposed to do on that day, your avatar loses hit points. The more daunting the task, the more damage you take and the more gold and XP you earn. It lets you get that same little dopamine rush that you get from something like Candy Crush--but you get it after you've checked off your writing goal for the day.

I'll write about the way that I maximized Habitica's usefulness for myself next time, but right now I want to focus on why it was the absolute best app for me as someone who was barely writing and who had two kids who were still in diapers--and why I'm still getting use out of it as someone who's made a habit of writing every day.

You can use it if you write longhand. This, for me, has always been a major stumbling block with online writing tools. I write my rough drafts longhand; I've tried typing them, but I just haven't been able to make it work. That cuts me off from a lot of tools that monitor how much you're typing. I love everything I've heard about Write or Die, for example, but I would only be able to use it for revisions, not for the rough draft--and rough drafts are where I need the most motivation. With Habitica, though, you aren't typing directly into the website or app, so you can use it to monitor your progress no matter what medium you use.

(By the way, if you use Write or Die and have been able to make it work with longhand writing, PLEASE let me know in the comments. It looks awesome.)

It isn't just for writing. Because Habitica is a general productivity tool, I put all of my daily chores on there, from writing to cleaning the litter box to practicing my German. That may not sound important, but it was actually crucial because it meant that I couldn't just avoid going onto Habitica when I wasn't writing. I don't know about you, but if I have an app for a single habit that I don't track as well as I should *coughweightlosscough*, I eventually just avoid using it altogether because I don't want to confront how badly I've been letting my that habit slide. With Habitica, though, even when I wasn't writing, I was still logging on every day so I could get my XP from doing laundry and making the kids' dentist appointments and remembering to take my meds . . . and I was seeing exactly how much damage I was taking from not writing, and imagining how much gold and XP I'd get as soon as I checked that sucker off. It got to the point where I would write a single sentence every day just so that I could check off that I had, in fact, written. And that made it easier to write another sentence . . . and another . . . and another.

It's (mostly) free. I played Habitica for over a year before spending a dime. It does eventually get a little repetitive at the higher levels if you don't change classes or start buying quests (or both), but both are incredibly cheap; I currently spend maybe a buck fifty a month on quests and particularly adorable extras like black and orange Halloween pets.

It allows you to have accountability partners who aren't writers. If you create a party on Habitica and go on quests, your unchecked chores will do damage to your party members as well as to you. My husband isn't a writer, so I can't set up writing dates with him, but I know that he'll take damage when I don't write, and that makes me want to write something so that I can check it off.

Unfortunately, this is where the "mostly" free part comes in; you need quests in order to have accountability with your party, and only a handful of quests are free. That said, they only cost a dollar and only one person in your party needs to buy the quest, so it isn't going to be a huge money sink. Our three-member party only gets a new quest every two weeks or so.

It's scalable. As mentioned, when I started using Habitica, I had very poor writing habits and two kids in diapers. If I wrote a page a week, it was an improvement. By the time I started my second novel, I was consistently writing at least five pages a week. Since I'm able to manage that, I'm planning to increase my quota to seven pages a week, then ten. Habitica lets me do all of that. Whether my goal is a sentence a day or three pages a day, I can use Habitica to help me reach it.

But how do you start in on those higher goals with Habitica? If all you have on your to-do list is "write," how do you avoid just settling on a sentence a day for the rest of your life? Next time, I'll get into the nitty-gritty specifics of what works for me.
 
 
Between the cost of tickets and the difficulty of wrangling childcare, the hubby and I only go to the movies about once per season. I knew that, unless the reviews were scathing, IT would our fall movie. Like so many other thirty-somethings, I was given an unholy terror of clowns by the 1990s version (not to mention bathtub drains; thanks, Eddie's post-gym shower scene), and for all the scare scenes, rereading the book always feels like visiting with old friends. When I watched the trailer and saw Georgie chasing his paper boat through the storm drain, I literally held my breath; I hadn't known exactly how much power the story had over me until that moment. Needless to say, the reviews weren't scathing, so off we went.

And man, am I glad we did. I can't objectively compare this movie to the 1990s version because I'm not seeing it as a ten-year-old, but it was good. The adaptation felt true to the spirit of the novel while still being fresh; in addition to changing the time period, Muschietti replaced certain scare scenes like the mummy and the werewolf both to give the movie less of a '50s vibe and to surprise book-savvy viewers. The result is terrific; as someone who's given pretty sizable patch of psychic real estate to Derry, Pennywise, and the Losers, I had that nostalgic old-friends feeling without ever feeling like I knew what was coming next.

Speaking of the Losers, they're where the movie really shines. I'd read about how much Finn Wolfhard steals the show as Richie, but I honestly laughed even harder at Eddie (whose '80s incarnation has many thoughts on the surprising ways you can contract AIDS). All the kids do a phenomenal job, though; as my brother pointed out, Stan Uris is never going to be anyone's favorite Loser, but Wyatt Oleff was the best darn Stan Uris he could be. I don't like Skarsgard's Pennywise as much as Tim Curry's (again, this may have more to do with me not being 10 than anything else), but he's properly malicious and off-putting. You also get a proper sense of Derry as not just a bad place, but a BAD PLACE.

Although most of the story changes were either improvements or adaptational necessities, I have mixed feelings about others. There was a damsel-in-distress bit with Bev that nearly made me throw my shoe at the screen, although the movie ultimately handled it much, much better than I was expecting it to (so well that I'm not sure what else they could have done if they wanted to stick to a three-act structure). Poor Mike gets the worst of it; his part was basically gutted, and I hope his adult incarnation has more to do. (I read somewhere that his character really shone in some over-budget scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, but now I can't find that link anywhere. "It" and "Mike" aren't very helpful words to add to your Google search.)

As for the scares . . . well, horror is personal, so it's hard to address how scary the movie actually is. I've heard some people say that it scared the bajeezus out of them, and I've heard others say it didn't scare them at all. For me, it had some deliciously creepy images, but nothing that crawled under my skin and stayed there after the credits rolled. For whatever reason, some of the scenes where It terrified them and let them go felt less like It was playing with Its food and more like It was oddly toothless. It felt more like really, really dark fantasy than horror--although as a fan of dark fantasy, I can't quite be sure that's a bad thing.

Those quibbles aside, I can't remember the last time I saw a movie and so badly wanted more of it. I came out of the theater informing my husband in no uncertain terms that the director's cut is going to be on my Christmas list;  I could easily have watched twice as much of this movie without getting bored. If you like the idea of Stand By Me with a demon clown or an R-rated Stranger Things, I can't recommend It highly enough. Just stay away from red balloons afterwards . . .