Tuesday, October 17, 2017


by Marion Ueckermann

I love building puzzles, and about once a year, I’ll go through a spate of whiling away the hours on this pastime. In fact, I recently completed a 2000 piece puzzle that I loved so much, I placed it between two pieces of glass and created a table top from it.

Now, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering what puzzles have to do with writing and reading. They actually have quite a lot in common, and here are a few things I could think of off the top of my head…

They both create a visual effect:
·         the puzzler pieces the tiny pieces together to build a beautiful picture
·         the author forges images for the reader by stringing words together

They both create a relaxing experience:
·         strange as it may sound, piecing together a puzzle can be rather relaxing—even though there are moments of frustration when you can’t find where to place a piece…or if you get to the end just to find there are pieces missing
·         people read to relax—but the relaxation levels could depend on what book you’re reading…not sure how relaxing a Steven King book is

You learn from both:
·         dopamine, the chemical responsible for learning and memory, increases when building jigsaw puzzles
·         Confucius said you cannot open a book without learning something—how true!

They both stimulate the brain:
·         you harness both brainpowers—left (logical, follows sequence) and right (creative, intuitive and emotional)—when putting together a puzzle
·         reading will do the same, dependent on the book, ie. fiction will feed the imagination (right brain), while non-fiction will build on knowledge, logic, reasoning, strategy, etc. (left brain). Creative non-fiction I’d guess would stimulate both.

My sister is a jigsaw fanatic, too, but we have totally different ideas about what to do when we’ve built a puzzle. She will paste that completed image to a hard board in the hopes that one day she’ll frame it and hang it. I think she could build a small house with all the puzzles she’s done this with. I, on the other hand, will break it up to build another day (except, of course, for my table top one). Readers react the same way with books—some will get rid of a book once they’ve read it, while others will slide it back onto their bookshelves to read the story once again.

When my brother emigrated to England two years ago, I inherited a puzzle from him and his wife. A WASGIJ?. Don’t know what a WASGIJ? is?—don’t worry, I didn’t either. Let me explain…it’s a back-to-front puzzle (if you read the word from right to left, it spells JIGSAW). In other words, the image on the puzzle box is actually what the final built puzzle is looking at, ie. if it were an image of the Eiffel Tower, you might find the built puzzle is of a couple picnicking on the grass in front of the tower, gazing up at the tall structure. Here is the puzzle I was given.

A WASGIJ? is rather challenging as you’ve no idea where the various pieces fit. Do they go on the right, the left, the bottom, or the top? It takes quite some time to piece this puzzle together, and all you have to go on is a cryptic clue on the box. This puzzle’s clue was: Uproar at the Vets!
And here’s the finished image, here’s what has everyone in that veterinary clinic in a tizz.

Authors are generally either Plotters or Pantsers (or a hybrid somewhere in between). I’m a thoroughbred Pantser, and this WASJIG? puzzle reminds me of myself because in my writing process, I work to a bare skeleton—kind of like the cryptic clue on this puzzle’s box. I have a vague idea what my story will look like, but am often surprised by what happens between that first word and the last…something like the process of not knowing what image will materialize when you tip the WASJIG? pieces onto a table. Life can be a little like a WASJIG?, too, don’t you think? So often unsure of what the bigger picture will be.

So, what kind of puzzler / reader / writer are you? I’d love to hear your stories on any, or all, of these pastimes.

MARION UECKERMANN's passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest's no longer so empty.

Visit Marion at www.marionueckermann.net

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  1. I LOVE this post, and how you compare writing to working puzzles! I love to read, and I love to work puzzles! Reading this makes me want to open up a puzzle and work it right now. We have puzzles that I work every Christmas and a couple for Thanksgiving, and for Easter. I do have one puzzle that I glued together and framed, because it was soooo hard to work. It's a puzzle with Abraham Lincoln's face, but his face is made out of tiny pictures. I almost gave up, but finally finished it and knew I would never tackle it again. I am glad that I persevered and finished it. Now I'm going to go and check out WASGIJ's. I have a puzzle where the backside is completely different, so it's like 2 puzzles in one.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Becky. I'd love to know if you find a WASGIJ? 😊

  3. Marion, great post! I wish I had time to do puzzles, lol. I'm a plotter who likes to have a robust story outline in place before I start writing. I'm a reader who loves being surprised by unexpected plot twists that deepen the story. :)

  4. Thanks Marion. Interesting post. I've never heard of a WASGIJ! As for writing, I'm also a panster, but I usually start with no idea of the finish. That can present challenges and sometimes I need to re-read the beginning to get the ending to tie in with it!

    1. I wish I could find another WASGIJ? Shirl. I've looked, but haven't seen. Fortunately, my pantsing does allow me to know the beginning, middle and end before I start writing :)

  5. Some days I wish I could be a plotter, Narelle, but there's only so much planning this pantser heart will allow :)

  6. Yes, you can find WASGIJ's on Amazon, so I put them on my wish list for Christmas.

    1. That's good to know, Becky. Unfortunately Anazon doesn't deliver to South Africa. I'll have to bring one back on my next trip overseas 😊

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  7. What fun, Marion. I love doing puzzles with my grandchildren--I'm delighted to know about the benefits.

  8. Interesting blog, thank you Marion. I'm visiting my sister at the moment and I see a WASGIJ puzzle on the shelf. We love doing puzzles, so guess what's next on the list.

  9. Yes, there is a certain kind of skill involved in doing jigsaw puzzles. It is called "visual spatial skills". Good organizational skills also help, as well as persistence and patience. Good attention skills of many kinds help, including attention to visual details. If you are a person who prefers auditory things, Jigsaw Puzzles might be a little harder for you than for some other people.