Puzzling it Out

Ask any author. Writing is hard. And every author develops their own process or ritual for keeping their butt in the chair and typing a word, then another until there’s a sentence and then another sentence. 

Some authors’ rituals include rising early, grabbing tea or coffee, disappearing into an office with the dog or cat and writing for a set number of hours or until a set number of words are on the page.

My ritual is more loosey-goosey but it repeats during the day and sometimes into the night. I get up when I get up. I don’t have a cat or a dog. I start with a mug or two of very strong black coffee and read the paper edition of The New York Times

Before, during and after my writing session which could be one hour or twelve depending on how it’s going, I do puzzles. I believe they relax me and get my brain in word mode

What’s a Five Letter Word that Means…

Right before I sit down to write I do the Mini crossword in the paper. It’s only five letters across and five down but solving it gives me confidence that, yes, I know words. I am a writer.

How Many Words Can You Create…

Then I turn on my computer and work on the Spelling Bee, a jumble of seven letters with the goal of making as many words from the letters as you can. The tricky thing is that only words that contain a specified letter are acceptable. When I’m stumped I put it aside and begin to write. But I’ll come back to it over the course of the day when I take breaks or I get stuck on writing. The thing I love about Spelling Bee is that it grades you according to how many words you make. I usually achieve Genius status, the highest, but sometimes I’m only Amazing. In either case, it confirms that I can conjure words from random letters, sentences from random words and paragraphs from random sentences. I’m a writer after all, so I say to myself.

Guess This Five Letter Word…

Sometime during the day, I tackle Wordle. It’s a challenge to identify the five letter word of the day in the six or less guesses allowed but I almost always succeed. Figuring it out requires logic. Writing requires logic. I am logical. Thus, I am a writer.

Guess These Four Five Letter Words…

Quordle is similar to Wordle but harder because you get only nine tries to guess four words at once. I do this one late at night, after I’ve done everything else. Most nights I solve it. Using logic, one word, then another. Yessiree, I am a hotshot wordsmith. A writer.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d be more productive if I didn’t spend so much time on puzzles but I think doing them stretches my brain and focuses it on words which of course is the objective in writing. One word, then another…

So authors and readers, what’s your ritual?  

Catherine Maiorisi

Catherine Maiorisi is the author of the NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery series featuring Corelli and her partner Detective P.J. Parker–two tough women, fighting each other while solving high profile crimes. A Matter of BloodThe Blood Runs ColdA Message in Blood, and Legacy in the Blood are all available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks narrated by Abby Craden.  

In addition to publishing multiple mystery and romance short stories in various anthologies, Catherine has authored four romances novels. Her latest book, The Disappearance of Lindy James, was awarded a GOLDIE for Best General Fiction.


  1. Up at 5ish. Play with dogs 30 minutes. Breakfast. Coffee. Either study Irish language on Duolingo or embroider until 730. Half hour of exercise. Then sit down at writer laptop for 45 minutes. That’s weekdays. On weekends I do two or three 45 minutes sessions writing. I get up and move around for 15 minutes after each session per physical therapist instructions.

    Not OCD. Am (was) military brat. Highly structured childhood.

  2. Wow, Keenan, I wonder how productive I might be if I had your structured approach. But I don’t. We all find our own way.

  3. I love doing Wordle in the morning. Convinced it makes me smarter. Or else, it’s a fun distraction. It tends to be dark when I wake up, so mainly I just tiptoe over to my computer and try and go right from sleep to dream to writing.

  4. Susan, that sounds wonderful. But it takes me a while to wake up after I open my eyes. My brain can be sleep fogged for hours, especially on dark, rainy days.I think that’s why I need a long lead up to starting to write.

  5. Haha! Wordle and Quordle are necessary now but such a gift to procrastinating…. I’d get more done without them! But I’m addicted

    1. Yes, but once the day’s puzzle is solved (or not) you have to wait until the next day to get your fix so it’s not too much of a time suck.

  6. I do the Bee, the Mini, and Wordle before I get out of bed. Then out with the dog, in to do people chores, and then write. Unless the unpredictable happens, which is more often than not. My motto is “Do the best you can.” I’ve learned that gentle acceptance of what life brings instead of resisting and becoming sullen about it makes me far more productive.

    1. I agree, Michele. I don’t resist and I don’t resent life’s interruptions. I’m lucky because the need to write doesn’t go away so if I’m in the mood I can write at noon or midnight, whenever I have the time.

  7. I’m with Keenan on the structured approach. Without structure I can spend entire days doing nothing. But I also love to do puzzles, Catherine. They do build my confidence that I can do anything I choose to.

  8. I’m addicted to Artle— four guesses of who the artist is of four pieces of art. I do it when I sit at my desk, my little treat before whatever I will do toward that day’s writing. My other brain candy is nightly Jeopardy. I am a wealth of useless information. I confess some obscure answers of information new to me find me scurrying down a rabbit hole of research later on, and often end up in a novel!

    1. I’m impressed, Marni. I doubt I could identify many artists. And I’ve never watched much TV so I never got into Jeopardy but I like the idea of researching obscure answers and using the information in a novel. Yes, I’m impressed.

  9. I hear ya, Connie. The puzzles keep me away from Facebook when I need a break So in addition to massaging the brain they prevent the deep dive into nothingness.

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