Spider Sol – a Cure for Writer’s Block or a Terrible Addiction?

old man and baby playing on the computer

I couldn’t sleep tonight. Instead of lying in bed, sweating profusely, straining my eyes to stay shut, at a little after one, I moved to another bed, and finally got up at 2:22.

What do you think I did?

At 3:41 in the morning. and I finally tired of playing Spider Sol. I was still tired, but not sleepy. Or at least not sleepy enough to go back to bed.

Does this sound like you? If so you are like millions of other humans around the world. Someone crazy person who had nothing better to do somehow calculated that in 2003 humans spent nine billion hours playing Solitaire. (And back then I thought no one could see me).

Making Bad Choices

It’s kind of like eating when you are hungry and there is nothing prepared, or even when there is, it doesn’t sound good. So you eat junk. I’ll grab a handful of chocolate chips and throw them into my mouth rather than make a tuna sandwich or scramble an egg. Bad choices. But back to Spider Sol before it gets too late.

Not My Problem

In the 1970s I vividly remember watching an old lady sitting on a hard stool in front of a Reno slot machine putting in dollar coins, rhythmically one after another at a fairly rapid clip. Coin in, pull the lever, coin in, pull the lever. If she saw me staring at her for about three minutes, she didn’t register it. My husband had to pull me away. What appalled me was the blank expression on her face and the rapid dispensing of dollars, which I needed so badly at the time.

Do you ever wonder why OTHER people engage in such meaningless behavior?

Or Is It?

Thank goodness for computers. Since Free Cell began and I bought my first big girl computer, I have spent sleepless nights playing and quite a few minutes scattered through the day playing mind-numbing Solitaire in hopes of beating the computer. The hope of winning adds value, doesn’t it?

Can you picture the old lady at the slot machine?

Strategies don’t work very often – even with hints from the computer. The cards are often stacked from the beginning. NO PROBLEM! I race the timer to see how soon I can find the fatal flaw in the game. That doesn’t stop me from trying again and hoping to win. Sadly, when I win, I immediately press the play a new game button. Is my face blank?

Spider Sol Improves Cognition


Have you watched brilliant people sitting at their desks at work playing solitaire on break, or worse during working time? Admit it. Even the smartest, most productive people – even Congress members have been caught with their computers tuned to Solitaire during a lively debate.

As I rationalize it, the difference in playing Spider Sol or other computerized solitaire game is my brain is somewhat engaged trying to figure out a pattern, and there is no dispensing of dollars. On closer inspection even I have to admit that I’m dispensing minutes, hours at a time of my life rather than dollar coins (and life’s precious minutes). It’s time I could be spending productively.

People Have Played Cards for Years

So, what could be wrong with it? It’s harmless!

Cards run in my family. Mom and I played Rummy for hours when I was a kid. In my thirties, when I visited her, we sat at the dining room table, each with a deck of cards, sometimes talking, sometimes not, playing solitaire. Were we resting our brains, challenging them, or waiting for something more important to happen? Were we trapped at home without a car to at least go somewhere, do something?


My grandmother did the same thing. That takes us back to the Dark Ages. She taught me War and Canasta when I was about seven. At least we weren’t fighting a real war, you might say. We each have our card games of choice, but all three of us did it. Maybe it’s genetic.

Why Do I Keep Playing Solitaire?

To answer that question, I asked the internet. I found lots of non-experts had opinions. “It’s good. It’s bad. Here’s how to do it.

Experts also weighed in on the topic of why we waste our time with Solitaire. One article that I particularly enjoyed was Lynn Phillips writing for Psychology Today.

She wrote, “If mine had been a real addiction, like heroin or gin, or even Second Life, I could see calling in the marines. But compared to destroying my brain cells or my ability to distinguish reality and fantasy, wasting my entire life seemed comparatively trivial. So the biggest obstacle I faced wasn’t denial, but shame: mine was/is the dumbest addiction I can/could imagine. Unlike sex, speed or sin, solitaire can’t make you appear glamorously wicked. You’re not teasing death; you’re waiting by the phone for death to text you. I can’t imagine a habit more pathetic. So instead of getting help, I got a new computer.”

A plethora of articles has been written about the psychology of playing Solitaire. It is a huge issue in the workplace because of the ease of switching between what you’re working on and the game. It is next to pornography in human hour usage.

What that means is that I’m not weird, just wired, to waste time. People wrote about missing deadlines because they kept trying to get a better score. Some railed against playing, others, presumably younger, advised it and gave links to where to find different games.

Pro Solitaire gamers said:

  • It’s fun.
  • It calms the mind. That could include the spirit, feelings of anger, hurt, depression, etc.
  • Like calming the mind, it soothes depression.
  • It’s a break from learning hard things- like how to use a computer.
  • It is easy.
  • It is puzzling, so improves cognition.
  • It’s helpful for introverts because there is no argument over rules.
  • It’s available on your phone if your computer’s not handy.

Those against it said:

  • They miss deadlines.
  • It lulls them to sleep.
  • There was an advertisement for sore joints, so even though no one said that it makes your joints sore by being so sedentary, it does.
  • It’s embarrassing to be caught.
  • It’s a cause for getting firing.
  • Facebook and social media has a similar effect. (And that’s better?)

In Conclusion

None of this will probably make me stop playing Spider Sol or its next replacement unless I get tired of it. I like it because it keeps me occupied when I might do something more destructive to my mind, heart, soul, and life. When I do get tired of it, I am ready to do something more productive, like tackle my to-do list, write in my journal or my blog, or go back to bed and get much-needed sleep.

At 5:44 am I finished this post after writing it first in my journal, then for you. TaDa! So now you won’t feel so bad the next time you flip from the blank screen to the green one and play a few mindless games of Spider Sol. You might think of your next great novel.

7 responses to “Spider Sol – a Cure for Writer’s Block or a Terrible Addiction?”

  1. Print My Game Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!


    1. Marsha Ingrao Avatar

      Thanks so much!


  2. Norah Colvin Avatar

    I used to play a lot of free cell too, but that was a few computers ago. It was fun, it was relaxing, it was thinking time. Now I do one one-hundred-piece jigsaw on my iPad each day and play a few games of Words With Friends. Sometimes I think I need to play more. Enjoy! There’s little worse than insomnia when it’s got it’s grip on you.


    1. Marsha Ingrao Avatar

      Exactly. I love you jigsaw idea. I am turning some of my pics into jigsaw puzzles. I wonder how to get them available on an ipad. What fun that would be!


  3. The Eternal Traveller Avatar

    Solitaire is just another way to while away some time and there’s nothing wrong with that. It would only be a problem if it got in the way and stopped you doing important things. Happy playing! Just not in the middle of the night.


    1. Marsha Ingrao Avatar

      Middle of the night is one time I play! Also when I have a longwinded phone call to make – like getting things fixed and being on hold. 🙂


  4. Sally Avatar

    Happy Easter – I hope you get some sleep!


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