I’ve been asking myself all day why I’m addicted to spider solitaire, and I think I may have found an answer.

It goes back to something I never mentioned, because it’s rather pathetic. A very successful author I know (she won the Newbery for goodness sakes!) once confessed that she played the most difficult level of spider solitaire and hardly ever won.

She said this at a time that I wasn’t addicted to it, in fact I hardly ever played the  most difficult level because the vast majority of the games are simply unwinnable.

But when she said this, I started playing the most difficult level. And I kept trying, uselessly, to get better at it.

How do you get better at a game that’s practically unwinnable?

Maybe the answer lies in the adverb ‘practically’. The fact is sometimes you do win. It’s a bit like gambling. There is a rush when you win the game.

And as an author, I’ve often justified the time spent thinking that this game actually teaches me something.

I think the brain is wired to create connections. It’s why we get stereotypes. Say we meet an Asian and they chew gum, then we meet another Asian and they chew gum. And say we lived in a world where no one else ever chewed gum, then we’d form a stereotype that Asians chew gum. Even though we hadn’t met all the Asians out there, the common element regarding gum-chewing behaviour seems to be that they’re Asian.

This is obviously an erroneous stereotype.

But by spending so much time playing the game, my brain tries to justify it by claiming that it is learning something by it, that the time is not wasted.

It’s a delusion. And I hate delusions. And yet it is hard to quit, maybe because in my mind I have associated it with that successful children’s author. Basically the logic my mind has deduced goes: A is a successful children’s writer. A plays the most difficult level of spider solitaire. So if I play the most difficult level of spider solitaire and get better at it than A, erego I will be a successful children’s author.


I know it’s stupid, but I do think this is the way our minds work. Otherwise why get celebrity endorsements for commercial products?

If Tiger Woods uses Gillette razor blades and Tiger Woods is successful, then erego if I use Gillette razor blades then…

You get the picture. Substitute the celebrity for whatever one you might personally admire and product you’re likely to use.

Maybe that’s how people get addicted to drugs as well. When they were first starting out, they might have been at a party with a group of people who were already high.

Drugs tend to numb people and release their inhibitions (I think) so with the nervous guests, what if they admire the uninhibited looser people. They want to be like them, so they start playing this logic game.

If Cindy is popular and the life of the party and Cindy smokes … then if I smoke … then I’ll be the life of the party.

Pardon me if that seems blatantly obvious to other people. It only just occurred to me.

But maybe later, when the person is thoroughly addicted (like me) and they don’t even want to take the drugs or play spider solitaire any more, the brain is so connected to it that it can’t give it up.

And when I’m frustrated with the way a story is going or frustrated with any other aspect of my life, then I crave the high, however little, of winning such a difficult game. It actually *feels* like I accomplished something.

Oh brother, the more I type about this the more pathetic it sounds.

I really will give it up.