Puzzling

 

Writing is a puzzle.

You have a picture in mind, a goal, a visualization of the completed project. What you hope or dream to complete. Maybe you’re only clear on a few of the pieces. You begin putting pieces together. Maybe you begin with the edge pieces, the easiest to start with, an outline to structure the story. You see where pieces fit together, small bits connecting to become scenes connecting to other scenes.

You finish one part, and become unsure how to continue. What’s the next piece? What part of the puzzle should you work on next? What connects? What fits?

When you begin, the number of pieces, the number of options are nearly unlimited. You can choose any sentence, word or action to put in. But as you fill in the spaces, the number of pieces, the number of options, lessen. Only certain pieces fit in certain places. You may move on to another section, but then find bits and pieces that fit and complete sections you’ve moved on from.

The closer you get to the end, the better picture you have the whole project. Pieces fall into place. No longer are you searching for specific-colored pieces, but grabbing the first idea that comes to mind and immediately finding where it fits into place.

You have a limited number of puzzle pieces, you have an limitless number of choices when writing. The puzzle limits you with its picture, every piece already made. You can only limit yourself when creating by making choices. Choices determine the nature of the picture, what it’s going to end up as, what it’s going to look like. Choices narrow your scope, your view, until it’s complete.

When a puzzle is complete, it’s perfect, done. Pieces cannot be moved or replaced.

In a creative work, you can edit, cut and replace better pieces with the old, constantly upgrading the puzzle as you see fit.

A puzzle is complete when it’s done.

You decide when your project is complete, when the pieces are set, when the picture is clear.

You can sit at a table with the puzzle pieces lying in a great heap, the blank space mocking you with its uncertainty. You can look at the picture on the box and at the pieces in front of you and feel frozen. You can sift through the pieces and find nothing. Nothing seems to fit. Nothing seems to work. There’s too much here, it must be impossible. There’s too many blue pieces that all look the same. Where to begin?

You can sit at your desk with a blank document open on your computer, the blank page mocking you with its potential. You can think about the vast mounds of puzzle pieces in your mind and imagine the impossibility of taking those pieces in your head and putting them together in a reasonable fashion on the page. Nothing fits. Nothing works. There’s too much going on. How do you start?

You take one piece and put it down. Then you take another and put it down. Maybe they aren’t in the right place, yet, but they’re there. Keep going. One after another. Remember, you can always move the pieces, edit them, cut them, replace them. But you need them on the table. You need to see them laid out to begin to put them together.

Write first. Get your shit on the page. Get those damn puzzle pieces on the table and start assembling them. Only you can make a picture from the pieces.

 

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