Thursday, September 6, 2012
When I get stressed, puzzles soothe me. I'm not sure why this is - any more than I can explain why reading thrillers and suspenseful mysteries makes me relax when I'm tense. The more stressed I am, the more likely I am to pick up a dark, fast-paced book - hopefully one full of puzzling mysteries crowned with my favorite, a twist at the end.
This has been an unusual year - we've packed up the house we've lived in for almost 20 years, renovating it at no small expense and, in the process, clearing out a lot of our "stuff." I'll be thankful we did this after we move into our much smaller condo in the city, but it hasn't been without stress.
I'm not a person who thrives on stress and I was surprised how often I found myself reaching for crossword puzzles and Sudokus to help me relax. I have a theory with Sudokus that I have to be in a particular zone in order to complete those successfully. When I'm in the zone, I can take one look at the puzzle and instantly see where the numbers have to go. Other nights (and I almost always do these puzzles at night) I can't complete one for love or money. Completing a puzzle correctly in ten minutes or less leaves me feeling accomplished and kind of smart. When I mess up a puzzle I feel like a dunce.
Writing is the hardest puzzle of all. Reading as much as I do - about a book a day - I feel like I should have absorbed enough knowledge to successfully write books myself. It's not as if I haven't tried - if practice makes perfect, I should be a best seller by now. Instead, I'm in a writing slump. Apparently multi-tasking is not one of my strong points - this move has sucked all my writing mojo right down the drain. And, damn it, I miss it! It's tough - and I don't think it ever becomes easy - but I enjoy the challenge. Like doing Sudokus, when I'm in the zone it's a feeling beyond compare. When I don't pull off a writing task with the skill I know it demands, I can feel that dunce cap settling on my head again, and I never have been one for hats.
I'm brave enough to do Sudoku puzzles in pen these days, but I'm glad I have a delete key when I'm writing. The puzzle I'm facing right now is how to get back in the zone after a summer spent packing more books than writing them. I hope the enforced time off will sharpen my skill with the pen (or, more accurately, keyboard). I never was much good at jigsaw puzzles, but I've always fancied the life of a detective. Now all I have to do is create one who has more skill with puzzles than I do!
And for stress-relief, I'll stick to rereading my Agatha Christie collection. There are worse ways to spend an evening, and unlike my limited supply of sudoku puzzles, I'm unlikely to run out of mysteries to read.
Posted by Becke Davis at 4:35 PM