Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Old Fashioned Brain Game or Pure Distraction? Annie West

I never seem to have much spare time, certainly not as much as I'd like. And when I do have time to myself I feel I should use it wisely. You know, catch up on the tax or weed the jungle I call a garden or do something else fruitful.

So it's with trepidation that I admit that I enjoy frittering away my spare time doing things that are quite useless. There - it's out!

Over a recent vacation break when I was doing the barest amount of writing we opened THE jigsaw puzzle. The massive 3,000 piece one that mocks from the bookshelf with a 'bet you don't dare take me on' smirk. The puzzle that has only been completed once before. Oh, it looks nice, doesn't it? But believe me, all those green leaves in the corner and that massive alpine slope behind the town are full of almost indistinguishable pieces. We spent a good bit of time merrily complaining about how hard it was, but celebrating whenever we managed to get a piece in. As an added bonus - because the puzzle took up a good deal of our dining room table, picnic type meals became very popular.

We enjoyed the puzzle so much we finished with another, smaller one - a mere 500 pieces which was done in a  single afternoon. Well, it was a wet day... I inherited this one years ago from my parents and I enjoy the fact that you can't get bored because of the variety of scenes in it.

I'm not quite sure what the attraction is in jigsaw puzzles. It had been years since I'd done one but I got straight back into the swing of it when we opened the box. I wonder if it's because I associated them with long summer holidays of my childhood, when it was okay to leave a jigsaw out for days until it was completed?

Whatever the reason, I found doing the puzzle both relaxing and stimulating. I felt refreshed after spending a bit of time trying to make the pieces fit. As a bonus, various family members got involved in the puzzles and there was a lovely feeling of camaraderie as we sat together, working on various parts of each puzzle. At a time when family pursuits seem few and far between this was a treat.

Do you have a puzzle or pastime you adore to do that may not be particularly 'useful'? Do you enjoy puzzles, sudoku or crosswords? Do you like card games or board games or do you have a weakness for computer games? What's your favourite 'non-useful' pastime? 

Personally I suspect that spending time letting our brains focus on something different is good for us. Or maybe that's an excuse to pick up a crossword or a jigsaw. What do you think?

Annie's current release is CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT from Harlequin Presents. It's a sexy, intense story about a woman who's free at last after a nightmare couple of years, but finds herself confronted with the one man she'd hoped never to see again. The man she'd almost loved and the man she can never trust again, all under the spotlight of the world's paparazzi.


Mary Preston said...

I have a number of online puzzles I do each morning, so much fun & a great way to begin my day. My daughter loves jigsaw puzzles & over the years has accumulated quite a few.

Mary Kirkland said...

ya know, I'm now a game player. I used to really be into Spades but you have to have 4 players for that card game and so I haven't played it in like 20 years.

Annie West said...

Hi Mary,
What a great way to start the day - with a couple of puzzles. That must get your mind into gear. How nice about your daughter accumulating puzzles. Great for long rainy days!

Annie West said...

Hi Mary. Ah, I don't know Spades. I used to love playing 4 handed card games with friends and family but haven't in years.

Pat Cochran said...

The quickest way to gather our family
together is to get out puzzles or dom-
inos. They just suddenly appear, often
racing to find the puzzle corner pieces!
I also like crossword puzzles & playing

Pat C.

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, I love jigsaw puzzles. Like you, I hadn't done one for years but I got one out over the Christmas holidays. Lots of sea and foliage which was surprisingly difficult. I actually think it's quite creative - because your conscious mind is busy doing something, your subconscious can sit down there and stew and come up with new ideas. Or at least that's my justification!

Annie West said...

Pat, that's marvellous. Isn't it great how games and puzzles draw family members together? I noticed that too, when we opened this big jigsaw. We had three generations working on it at one stage. Hope you have lots more family times with them.

Annie West said...

Anna, I'd love to think of jigsaw puzzles as providing a creative outlet for my brain. It would be excellent to think I could enjoy doing that and it would help me with my story development too. I like that theory. Thanks for sharing.

Lee Hyat said...

Annie, I adore jigsaw puzzles. I used to work on them with my Mom but haven't put one together in years. The last time was when I was visiting family in London. It was wet outside and, like you, we spent a good deal of time around the dining table working on the puzzle. Good times. I know there are online versions of jigsaw puzzles but I haven't found any of them as satisfying as working on one physically. And I agree about the creative aspect. They really give you time to mull things over

Michelle Douglas said...

Oh, Annie, you've make me eager to dig out a jigsaw puzzle, now. Though perhaps not a 3000 piece one (mind you, yours is very impressive!). It's been an absolute age since I did one, but I like Anna's theory that it's creative. Might have to test that theory out.

Once upon a time I was big on cryptic crosswords.'s been a while since I did one of those too. Might have to dust off the old brain cells and put them back to work. :-)

Annie West said...

Lee, I'm smiling at discovering you enjoy jigsaws too. What a nice memory to have - working on one with family. That's really only when I do it - when there are others to share with, which is why vacation time is so appropriate. I remember staying in a lovely coastal hideaway where we found a jigsaw that intrigued us. We ended up doing it on the tiled floor as we wanted to be able to use the dining table. As you say - great too, for wet weather.

Annie West said...

Michelle - cryptic crosswords are too taxing for me. Occasionally I can make out a word, though I'm never quite sure how I got it. According to my husband it's just a matter of practice but I'm not sure. I'm impressed.

Hm, you could come around one wet day when neither of us have a book due and we could do a small jigsaw.

Michelle Douglas said...

Ooh, it's a date.. :-)