Back in the day when I worked full-time (it seems a lifetime ago, mostly because it was!), I worked for a health insurance company writing and editing employee newsletters, brochures and speeches. I also worked on crossword puzzles.
That’s right. Every morning, one of the three employees in the office was assigned to grab the puzzle from that day’s paper, copy it and distribute. Then we’d all retire to our little cubbies and see who could finish first.
Were we wasting time? Well, maybe a little. But I think we were doing more than that. We were exercising our brains, stretching our memories and making ourselves concentrate.
I still do the crossword puzzle every morning. My favorite is the USA Today puzzle that you can find online. Without sounding too full of myself (!), I’ll tell you right now that I always finish it, and I always get every single word right. It doesn’t take a genius. After a few days of doing any crossword puzzle, you get the hang of the clues. For instance, three of yesterday’s clues were:
Incur the SEC’s wrath
For some reason, that "in custody" one came to me right away: underlockandkey
After that, the others were easy. At least if you think like a crossword puzzle creator or a crossword puzzle completer. Lock made me think of stock, so that went with the SEC clue. And that just naturally led to lock, stock and barrel. The three answers:
Am I wasting time when I do the morning crossword? Well, maybe a little. And maybe I’m stalling getting down to the business of writing, too. But in the meantime, I’m forcing my brain to kick into gear, booting up my memory banks (I knew the Edda was an Icelandic saga, honest!), and reinforcing the fact that there are always new ways words can be connected. I’m constantly reminded that sometimes, I naturally think of a word as a verb--when it can also be a noun, and that playing games with words is really what writing is all about.
Wasting time? Nah! I’m thinking outside the box, even though those little boxes are what it’s all about.