My family is big on crossword puzzles. There’s a table full of them in the bathroom, a pile of them on the dining room table, and a travel book in at least one of the suitcases. Now I wasn’t into them until I was in Florida and grabbed a cheap book to keep my mind sharp while working as a cashier. Also it was a dollar and I figured it could be used as a back-up roach swatter. Never came down to that. I’ve since indulged in the local papers, and Sunday Times, crossword puzzles. I can breeze through the Monday to Wednesday, get slower around Thursday, do decent on Friday, and then I pretend that they don’t have crossword puzzles on Saturday. Sunday is always a crap shoot.
So what am I getting at? I remember gearing up to edit Beginning of a Hero, Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, and Allure of the Gypsies. This is before I made friends with an excellent editor/bestie/mentor, so I was on my own. I was trying to improve my vocabulary while editing and crossword puzzles seemed to help. I’d pick up on some interesting words through it and carry those into my writing. Currently, I couldn’t tell you which parts of my vocabulary came from the puzzles. I’ve tried my best to integrate it into one collection in my head. Honestly, I need to get back into those and take them seriously. The piles have gotten huge, so I’m just trying to make a dent in them instead of retaining information. I’d toss some, but apparently that’s against the house rules.
Kind of similar to crossword puzzles are the old ‘Search-A-Word’ that many will remember from childhood. This acted as a gateway puzzle to crosswords and you would have the snobs that looked down on the word hunters. I loved these things as a kid. So much that I once bought a collection of 500 of them and spent 2 years working on them at my leisure. I still remember my system (scatter shot beginning and line-by-line as the list shrunk) and what I learned from it. Patience when hunting for those final words and being alert when reading. Searching for that part that is off or following a trail among the mess has helped me sort through my own notes and thoughts.
My love of puzzles in general probably explains my writing process. Really wish I had the space to do jigsaw puzzles again and maybe frame one or two. I have a 1,000 piece one that I wanted to make and frame some day.
So it really does pay for an author of every kind to do word-based exercises of any kind. At least it doesn’t hurt and you never know what you’ll find sitting among the questions and answers. Though they do seem to love poetic contractions and the word ‘oboe’ for some reason.