What Wordle taught me about writing

Mel Lewis

Mel Lewis | April 18, 2024

What Wordle taught me about writing


I’ve been doing the daily Wordle puzzle since it started.

In case you missed it, Wordle is an online game that gives you six chances to guess a five-letter word. It was invented by Josh Wardle, a software developer, for his girlfriend who loved word games. Just for fun, so the story goes. Until he sold it to the New York Times.

At first it seemed harmless enough. On good days, when I got the word in three tries or less, I felt like a star. On bad days, when I struggled to get it in six, I expanded my vocabulary of four-letter words.

I soon tired of using tried-and-true start words like ‘adieu’ and ‘crane’ and went to sleep thinking of new words that might solve the puzzle in one go. And I did get better at it. I got ‘trope’ in two guesses. And one day I even got Wordle in one: ‘noise’.

Maybe that was when I began to realize that noise was exactly what the game was. A distraction, albeit a vaguely literary one. An addiction, however innocent, that came at a cost. Wordle got me out of bed each morning with a sense of purpose. Must do Wordle, I’d think, as I put on the kettle at 5:30. I’ve always been an early bird, but I used to spend my first waking moments writing, while my brain was fresh. Now, I was Wordling.

When I realized that I was obsessively counting letters in words instead of reading them, I decided it was time to break the habit. I went cold turkey for a few days. And once I stepped away from my morning crack, I realized that Wordle was a lot like writing:

  • There are good days and bad days.
  • Sometimes you need logic but sometimes it’s best to go with your gut.
  • When you get stuck, set it aside. When you return to it, the answer may well be staring you in the face. Or not. You just have to keep going.
  • The bot will beat you on logic and vocabulary every time, but it lacks one thing that we have: intuition. Which is why the world will always need writers.
  • Above all, do it for the joy of it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I still do Wordle when I have a spare few minutes. But not every day. And definitely not first thing.

Because ‘write’ is the best five-letter word of all.

How about you? Do you Wordle?

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