Words, Friends, and Words With Friends: How to Win, Whatever Your Score


I love words. And word games. And my friends. And my Mom. And my Aunt and cousin. By playing Words With Friends on my phone, I find a way to combine all these loves every day.

And as a somewhat introverted ‘word geek,’ I not only love the challenge of using my vocabulary, along with various strategies I’ve acquired to play the game well – I also love keeping in touch without leaving my house or making a phone call.

I’m able to stay connected while also happily living my reclusive life at the same time. And I can do what I’m good at, which is everything to do with words, and with competing with myself only, to keep getting better.

My Mom and I even use our daily multiple games to keep in touch, and to keep track of each other. We know each others’ routines fairly well, so if one of us doesn’t send words within a few hours of when they’re expected, we get a text making sure we’re okay!

Playing “Words” Bring out the Best and Worst in Me.

I am grateful and amazed that my friends and family keep playing with me, even though I fairly frequently beat them, sometimes hard. And instead of hating me, (though my Dad has reported that sometimes he hears my Mom calling me names under her breath), they congratulate me on those 90 point words, praise me for how I play, and keep coming back for more.

Something I can (mostly) feel good about too is that they also keep getting better, which keeps me growing, and shows that I’m teaching and sharing my knowledge of and love for words, and the game, with others.

I also have one or two players who frequently beat me quite soundly, which keeps me humble, gives me empathy for what it feels like, and continually challenges me to do better.

I’ve never been someone who cares all that much about winning or losing. And I don’t think of myself as highly competitive, except against myself. I always want to do better and beat my record. But I have found that this game tends to bring out my competitive side, and I behave much more assertively in this space than I do in life.

I often find myself apologizing for drawing the high card, getting the better word, or otherwise doing something that might, however unintended, make the other person feel bad. Even with “Words” I sometimes feel sheepish if I win by 100 points, (which, by the way, happens much less often, now that most of my opponent/friends are on to me and learning, literally, how to beat me at my own game).

But still I find that a different personality comes out when I play. Though I still care more about the friends I play with than winning, or even my score, I do get more competitive than I usually am. I’m always trying to beat my best score, my average score and other stats.

The game shows you your own stats on various details of the game, and when I found out I was only playing 90 something percent of 2 letter words, I set out to learn, and play,  more of them, and somehow I reached 100%. I also keep trying to increase the number of “unique words played” and of JQXZ words, which means sometimes straying from the tried, true and convenient to challenge myself to expand my game-related vocabulary, and use more of my regular vocabulary as well.

The Good and Bad of Playing, and How it Affects my Work.

The downside is obvious, especially when I’m working from home. It’s far too easy to let my ‘breaks’ expand into my work time. I try to at least turn off notifications on my phone, so there isn’t the siren song of the game calling me when I’m supposed to be doing other things.

But I do think playing a few words makes for great short breaks throughout the day, which can, when used right, actually increase productivity. I also think my mindset when I play – that of continually wanting to rise to the challenge, learn new skills, and keep trying to beat my own records – may also help me face the challenges and unknowns involved in running and marketing my new business.

I’ll try to view it as a game, a fun challenge, something to keep doing a little better at, a little at a time. Just like I’ve found that meeting new, small challenges in my daily workouts – learn how to turn on the balance beam, increase the minutes I jog instead of walk, and so on have helped give me confidence that I can meet other challenges, in life and work, meeting challenges in the game can also stretch my brain, and my comfort zone, and what I feel is possible for me to do.

A Very Few Words about Strategy in Words with Friends

It’s important to have fun, with words and with friends, to gain vocabulary, and to be balanced rather than to over-analyze all the strategies just to win. It’s about learning and connecting, not just scoring points.

But that being said, let’s be clear that this game is definitely a lot about strategy. A good vocabulary and feel for how words work helps. And you will gain a special vocabulary specific to the game itself. That’s really important.

But you really do need to have a strategy also for how to place your words to maximize special spaces on the board, block your opponent, etc. At the risk of getting beaten more often, I’ll share some tips about that next time, including some from an expert or two that have thought out the whole strategy part more than I have or intend to.

So until next week, have fun and I’ll see you on the screen.












Finding Meaning in the Mundane: Three Musings on Daily Life – Part 2

2. The resilience of green, growing things.

I don’t know if I could say I have a purple thumb, because I don’t know what that would mean, though I love purple enough that nearly everything else in my life is purple, plum, mauve, lavender, lilac, violet, or something in that category.

All I can say is that my thumb has not been known for being green. In fact, I have for most of my life had trouble keeping any plant alive.

So I feel like I’ve grown (pun maybe intended) as a plant person over the years, because I now happen to have two house plants and two outside plants that are all alive, some after several years. There have been some rough moments, but with help from two or three “plant doctors” in my life, I’ve managed to keep them alive for an impressive amount of time compared to my history.

One thing I’ve learned when it comes to plants: if all else fails, cut off all the brown parts, even if it means leaving only nubs sticking out of the soil, give it water and sun, and wait for it to use its own ability to renew itself.

My most recent addition to my tiny plant family is a small mint plant I’ve been keeping, only partly successfully, by my kitchen sink.

At first I had to experiment with the container to keep it in, and how much water to give it. Too many brown leaves told me I wasn’t getting it right at first. But I cut off the brown parts, encouraged that they would soon be replaced by the miniscule, infant leaves I could see beginning to sprout. Plant procreation right under my eyes. Amazing.

Another amazing thing about this plant is that I can purposely cut off leaves, literally for my consumption, and feel confident that they will soon be replaced by new growth.

The plants in my life have proved to be, not only resilient but forgiving, giving me a new chance again and again, and in the case of this small, fragrant adornment, almost as many mint-sprigged cups of tea and recipes as I like.

I can take, and it continues to generously give of itself, without ceasing to exist. I give back by watering it, admiring it, and celebrating its generous nature with these words.

I think we can also be like that to a degree. Though we can’t cut off parts of ourselves and regrow them (except hair), we can come back from things we thought we might not survive, and continue to grow and thrive. We can also give to others, within limits, without depleting ourselves. In fact we do better when we give, allowing for new growth, sprouting leaves of our own kind.

3. A clean, blank calendar.

Last week I made the observation that this week would bring a new week, a new month, and a new year, all at once. That’s a lot of beginnings.

Though I don’t make new year’s resolutions, I usually can’t resist the pull and possibility of a whole new year stretching out as a blank slate on which to write goals I’d like to accomplish in this seemingly vast stretch of time.

I know the time will go by faster than could seem possible, and there are limits to what I can accomplish, but it is both motivating and inspiring to write down goals, and set out the steps to achieve them.

But this year I find that it is not only the clean canvas of a new year that inspires me, but an actual uncluttered calendar as well. I use my calendar to write down, not just appointments, but goals, to-do lists, business records, small steps achieved, personal reminders, and so on. So by the end of the year I have a convenient record, but also my usual inky mess.

I haven’t figured out how not to do this, but a completely clean calendar to start with rested my eye and my mind, and made me want to fill it carefully and mindfully, not to mention a little more neatly if possible.

But this pure, free space didn’t last long. Before even the first day of January I have (neatly) made notes on squares representing two days of the first month. But I will try to use the calendar, and the time it represents, joyfully, purposefully, efficiently, and well.


Next time I will try out yet another subject, a surprise, to honor the suggestion of a valued reader.