When I first started out with them, the likelihood that I would finish the Sudoku on Saturdays was slim to none. The games are super easy Monday and Tuesday, and gradually add stars of difficulty throughout the week, ending with a five-star puzzle on Saturday. A five-star puzzle that I might spend as much as half an hour on before giving up. The Crossword stuff was usually doable, but it would take me 12 to 15 minutes to complete. If you love crosswords, this is on the easy end of crossword puzzles, believe me, and I'm not good at them.
Despite my own limitations with regard to intelligence, I've continued to work on these little games every single day for years. And I realized something this morning: They have grown a LOT easier.
This is not to brag. I am no smarter now than I was ten years ago. I've had two kids since then, so it is very likely that many thousands of my brain cells have been irrevocably lost. And the games haven't changed format in all that time, either. They are just easier. And here's why:
1. I have previous knowledge from playing the game that helps me find answers and or make deductions more quickly. The same authors create the crossword puzzles, so I know to look for answers with vowels. For instance, I know "oboe" is the likeliest musical instrument. I know that words beginning with vowels are also necessary to make the puzzles work, and previous experience on the puzzles helps me think of these words.
2. I've grown used to the time markers. I used to try to finish the crossword under ten minutes. But that clock ticking messed with me. Instead of becoming a relaxing game just to get my mind revved up in the morning, it became some sort of track race, and I was always losing. Now that I'm not panicking, or even looking at the time signature, I finish in around 7 minutes. No panic. Just concentration.
3. Strategy becomes the name of the game, instead of the games feeding some sort of self-worth. I'm not afraid of not completing the puzzle ("You're so dumb, Shakespeare! You can't even solve this 3-star Sudoku!"). Instead, I know the puzzle can be solved, and I simply look for the best paths to do so. And those paths have become clearer to me as I've played, so that even this morning my Sudoku puzzle (a 5-star) took me about five minutes to finish, without my ever finding a place where I couldn't figure out what to do next. (I used to sometimes stare at the screen for that amount of time, completely at a loss, before giving up for the day.)
So, what does this rather silly ramble about silly games prove? Well, since I just FINISHED my umpteenth draft of novel numero uno, I know my task: To write a query letter and synopsis, research the field, and go out there and get an agent. I admit, as much as the rewrite was fantastically enervating, the idea of putting my work out there for everyone and his dog to reject is twisting my innards.
That is the purpose of this metaphor. I've sent things out before (though it's been years), and I know it will be difficult at first. I may want to give up. The query letter might go through ten different versions before I put together one that doesn't suck. My work will be rejected innumerable times.
But it will get easier. With practice will come experience, and I will use the feedback and the practice to hone my strategy. Each letter will be less stomach-wrenching. Each rejection less of a big deal, and each day that I work on this I will stress about it less and see it through more fully, learning my way through the process so that when it comes I'll be more ready than when I started this journey.
I still intend to print out each rejection and post it up in my office. I'm just about to tear all the shelves out of the place so that I have four full walls to fill with rejection letters. I'm considering printing them on nice stationary, since most will be e-rejections. My goal? In a couple of years, I want enough rejections to cover all the walls.
To do that, though, I'll need to get writing. Query letter first, synopsis second, list of prospective agents third. Just writing about this makes it feel easier. Time is no issue. It will likely take years, and I'm prepared for that. Strategy is what counts. Strategy and a positive attitude.
Okay, so the novel itself does count. But I think it's AWESOME. And you will too, when you read it.