A few weeks back I walked past a colleague’s desk and saw she had completed the crossword from that day’s newspaper. I wasn’t too busy so I interrupted her work (classic corporate move) and asked about the puzzle, which it turned out she did on a daily basis.
Ever up for a challenge I asked if she could include me in her copies going forward and now you would find the same puzzle in my back pocket while in the office. So what’s the scoop on this new habit of mine?
Well for starters, completing a crossword each day, much like any fun activity when repeated daily, starts coming less novel and more troublesome as the routine settles in. In part however this has to do with the positive/negative mental attachment my brain has made with doing crosswords. If I do well for a few days in a row, I feel positive and excited to keep going. When I hit a few hard days and struggle for a while, then the enthusiasm and energy starts waning.
Currently I’m reading ‘How to have a good day‘ by Caroline Webb, and one of the behavioral science principles I’ve learned about is how our brains look forward to something, or don’t. In much the same way I can recognize that my ability to keep up this new routine is supported or hindered by my performance and experience in completing the puzzles.
The other thing that has become very apparent to both me and my friend (call her the my crossword sensei) is that my ability to recall a vast array of impressive and semi-obscure English words has dropped to a pretty poor level. I’m quite capable in explaining and understanding ‘obtuse’ when I read it, but asking me to pull the word from the back of my mind based on a clue didn’t delivery such great results.
Any language can be split into (1) Reading, (2) Writing, (3) Listening and (4) Speaking, which you can see is one set of audio input/output and one set of visual input/output. In much the same way I can recall the meaning of a word once read, but cannot dive into my mind to retrieve the word based on its general meaning – which is exactly what you need for the crossword… unfortunately
So, is it improving my written and oral skills?
The last question, relevant to where we are right now, is how these little rectangular zebra crossings may impact my over all performance in written or spoken material. Frankly I think it’s a slow burn. I would love to claim a sudden jump in my active vocabulary, amazed friends and family members asking me what my secret is, but the lesson is that if you aren’t practicing the real activity (mentally or physically writing or speaking) then don’t expect to improve it dramatically.
Still, these little blocks bring a bit of variety and a flavour of the manageable challenge into my days and for that I’m already thankful (:
This is part of my A to Z Challenge 2016, click the button at the bottom of the site for more information if you like.