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Anne Louise Bannon Muses on Solitaire

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Old Los Angeles series of historical mysteries and the Operation Quickline series of cozy spy novels, the latest of which, Amateur Theatricals, will be released on August 9. You can find out more about her on her website, annelouisebannon.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

I just won another game of Solitaire.

It’s a little embarrassing that I spend as much time as I do mindlessly clicking through games including Klondike, Demons and Thieves, Canfield, Free Cell, and Spider Solitaire. But playing Solitaire on my computer isn’t – for me – the distraction you would suppose. And being the ADHD poster child, I know from distraction.

Usually, what I’m doing when I’m playing is thinking of my next sentence, trying out different versions of it. Much the same way many writers I know write something down. Then erase it. Then write it down another way, then erase that. I just do that in my head instead of on the screen or on paper.

This is because I am an audial writer. I have to “hear” the words in my head before I can put them on the screen (or on paper).

But as I ponder what to write next, I sometimes also muse on life, in general, and oddly enough, have discovered a couple truths about Solitaire and about life and writing.

Such as to keep trying and testing new options. When I’m playing Klondike or Spider, the variations are limitless, and sometimes testing to see which cards are where can lead me in the right direction. Sometimes not. And going back to the beginning can be the smartest thing to do both at cards and in my writing. Which I hate doing, but sometimes need to.

(And speaking of, just lost a round of Klondike. Again.)

Another good thing when I’m testing Solitaire options is that it reminds me that the hint offered by the game isn’t always the best move. Just like the best intended writerly advice. Sometimes, where I think a story is going isn’t where it should be going.

The thing with Spider and Free Cell, you’re supposedly able to win every game. It can just be insanely difficult to do so, which is what I like about them. I know I can win, and that can be very motivating. But also, sometimes the best thing I can do is give up. Not often, mind you. And sometimes I have to give up making a plot happen. Not often. I’m pretty stubborn.

The set of games I play out of the dozens offered by my app, Full Deck Solitaire, are a nice mix of games that are easy to win, plus games that are winnable but hard, and others that have an even win to loss ratio. There is even one that is almost impossible to win.

I play easy to win games because life is hard, and sometimes I just need the easy win. I like playing an even win to loss ratio because I don’t like losing all the time. But Yukon, which is darned near impossible to win, is becoming a favorite because it is so very satisfying when I succeed.

Challenge is a regular part of life. We need to balance easy wins with bigger challenges, accept the inevitable losses, and go after the grand, improbable win. It is so satisfying to crush it.

Maybe I just need to spend less time playing Solitaire. Oh well. Back to work

Anne Louise Bannon

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s, the Operation Quickline Series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. You can find out more about her on her website, annelouisebannon.com, or follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    Wow. What a unique way to open your mind to your writing. I tend to just get up and do something else or go to bed. You’re right about sometimes you just have to give up. But then inspiration comes a few days or weeks later.

  2. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Anne — “Keep trying and testing new options.” Amen, siSTAR!

  3. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    I just spent an hour choosing a restaurant and I’m trying to convince myself that it was sort of like what you do with games – simultaneously thinking about my characters!

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      Of course you are! Whatever works. (Oh, and I’m always on the lookout for a good restaurant for the next time I’m out your way.)

  4. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    I play Wordle during breakfast seven days a week. That inspires me to think about my love of language, reading, and writing. Which makes me think about teaching. Which makes me think about my former students. Who make me think about why I write. Which screams at me, “So, get up off your duff and go do it!” So, I do.

  5. Avatar
    Avanti Centrae

    It’s fun to see the different processes we all have for getting words on paper. Keep on playing!

  6. Avatar
    saralynrichard

    I’m a game-player, too, and I try to use game time constructively to think about whatever scene or character or sentence I’m writing. What I always tell my creative writing students is to do whatever works for them. In your case, solitaire is a good use of time!

  7. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    Clever, letting the right brain play while the left brain works under the covers.

  8. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    I like what Sheila said! (And your response!) I play Wordle, Spelling Bee, Connections and Sudoku almost every morning before sitting down to write. It’s nice to know someone else is hooked on games as well!

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