Recently, I’ve discovered this really awesome thing…I’m not sure if any of you have heard about it…they’re called PUZZLES, and they’re mega cool.
It all started when I backed a Kickstarter (that I found thanks to a Facebook ad…and you all know that Facebook ads are Renata kryptonite) for some cool-sounding puzzles by a company called Odd Pieces back in June. In the description, it said that the artwork on the puzzles was done by independent artists, which I thought was awesome. But the truly unique thing about these puzzles was that there is a surprise twist to them. The picture on the box wasn’t the same as what the puzzle would look like at the end. What? How? TAKE MY MONEY!
When I backed the project, I saw people in the comments comparing these puzzles to something similar by a company called the Magic Puzzle Company. Since my puzzles by Odd Pieces wouldn’t be shipped until October, I decided to give the Magic Puzzle Company a try and let my inner Winston Bishop out.
I bought a beautifully colorful 1,000 piece puzzle, cleared off our living room coffee table, and got to work (of course, it was silly of me to only buy one when I should’ve known the collector in me would eventually need all 3 of their puzzles!). I won’t give away any of the surprises in the Magic Puzzle Company puzzles, but they are very cool and make the puzzle more challenging. While I knew that I would enjoy smashing colorful pieces together for hours, I was truly surprised how much I enjoyed it. I finished that first puzzle and immediately started another. I was hooked.
I really had a lot of fun getting lost in something that I had to do manually. Sure, playing video games may be sort of manual, but I still have to stare at a screen to play. With a puzzle, I actually have to place all of the pieces and figure it out with my hands, which I enjoy. In fact, Dan and I have also started to build Lego sets and wooden 3D puzzles together. Maybe that’s why I like escape rooms, too? Hmmm…something to consider.
Most likely because of this manual aspect, puzzles seem to take more of my concentration than anything else. While playing a video game, reading a book, or watching a show, I’m tempted to either play on my phone concurrently or take long breaks to play on my phone. As someone who struggles with phone addiction and chronic doomscrolling (but also knows how detrimental to my mental health it can be), this is huge for me. I feel so great while doing a puzzle because I’m actually able to put my phone away and focus on doing something else with my hands. Aiding in this good mood, I sometimes will have Dan make me what I call “puzzle juice” while I work on my puzzles (in case you’re curious, “puzzle juice” is one shot of Disaronno mixed with ginger ale on ice…I am not a big drinker, but these are really good…and not just for puzzling ;)).
Another interesting thing that I discovered about my puzzles is that they don’t break my heart like books, movies, TV shows, and video games. Whenever I get into a new one of those, I end up completely heartbroken and aimless when they’re over.
“I just finished [the latest season of Nailed It!/the new Spiritfarer video game update/the new Twilight novel], what am I supposed to do with my life now?!?!”
Getting emotionally invested in something then having it end is brutal. That’s one of the main reasons that I struggle to start a new show/book/movie…I just don’t have the energy to have the big feels only to feel empty after! Puzzles have no main characters! I can’t get attached emotionally! If I finish one puzzle, I typically leave it finished on the coffee table for a day or two then pack it up and move onto the next one. It’s so freeing!
There’s always another puzzle to do, and you can find puzzles damn near everywhere. I like to go to the local bookstore and pick them up. I love choosing puzzles that are colorful drawings by talented artists. There’s just nothing that perks you up like looking at bright, beautiful colors for hours on end!
That all being said, like anything else, there can be a pitfall to puzzles. Like I said, I’m drawn to beautiful puzzles with bright colors, but that doesn’t always mean the puzzles I pick are easy. While I try to challenge myself somewhat, I’ve found that I can go…a bit overboard. I bought one puzzle at my local bookstore last month that was a really pretty drawing of several crystals jutting out into the night sky. I loved it, but I knew that it would be a challenge. Many parts of it looked the same, and therefore many of the pieces looked the same. I had done puzzles with similar-looking pieces before, though. Surely I would figure it out!
I started the crystal puzzle on Labor Day, and within a few hours, I had the night sky border down. No sweat, I’d have the rest of it done in no time! I started separating out pieces with distinct characteristics that I would be able to easily place…which I quickly realized was very few pieces. The vast majority of them all looked the same. I started to feel overwhelmed a bit and stepped away. I came back a few hours later and couldn’t place a single piece. Then I came back a day later. Then again a few days after that. Soon enough, I just said “I’ll get to it eventually” and didn’t touch it. Every time I looked at the coffee table where it laid only a fraction of the way done, I felt irritated with myself. Why was I struggling so much? Was I really too stupid to do a puzzle?
After a couple of weeks of this, I realized the only conclusion: It was time to pack it up and start something else. I was doing puzzles for fun and entertainment, but all this puzzle was causing me was shame. So I packed it up and bought another one. I was proud of myself for being able to let it go without being mad at myself for quitting. There’s nothing wrong with throwing in the towel, especially when it comes to something that, I repeat, I was doing for fun anyway.
Now, I have another easier puzzle on the table, and I already have most of the border done after a couple of hours. I’m looking forward to puzzling again now that I have one that is actually doable. Will I break out the crystal puzzle again? Maybe, but not anytime soon!
Either way, I’m really glad that I decided to take a chance on all of these cool “magical” puzzles, and I can’t wait for my Odd Pieces puzzles to come in the mail! Puzzles have become a really great and satisfying way to spend my time.
In case you were looking for puzzle recommendations, here are some of my faves:
Unidragon wooden puzzles (https://unidragon.com/)
Magic Puzzle Company (https://magicpuzzlecompany.com/)
Michael Storrings puzzles (can be found on https://www.galison.com/)
May your puzzles be challenging (but doable), may your puzzle juice be tasty, and may you be able to pack up any half-done puzzle that is causing you the bad feels!