Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles were one of my favorite things to do as a kid. Jigsaw puzzles. The more pieces the better. I remember spending many a rainy afternoon doing puzzle after puzzle, lining them around the border of my bedroom as I completed each one.

As I got older, my obsession with puzzles increased, as did the number of pieces in them. Now, each winter break, I pick a 1000 piece puzzle and my children tackle it with me the entire time they’re off from school. I try to pick pictures that don’t torture them too much, like animals or different flavors of ice cream. No eggshells in this house. I’m not a sadist, after all.
I think it’s the process that draws me to puzzles so much. First, I work on the frame to get a basic idea of what it will be. Then I move on to the inside, the meat. I might plod along for a while, successfully putting things together, when I suddenly get stuck. I’ll search for the piece that’s been alluding me, maybe for hours. I’ll take a break from it, only to come back and still not find it. But then, when I look down at the pieces in front of me, there it is, clear as day. It’s been staring me in the face all along. When I find the mysterious piece that fits together perfectly with the rest of what I’ve made, it’s like the planets have aligned themselves and the universe makes sense. Okay, I might be exaggerating, but it is pretty cool.

While I was writing the other day, a similar thing happened. A chapter came to an end and my words were at a dead standstill. I knew where I wanted to go a little later in the story, but I had no idea how to get there. A piece was missing and no matter how long I sat staring at what I already had, I couldn’t find it.
I walked away from it and worked on a different part of my book. When I came back, still nothing. I shut down for the night, but the next day brought me no closer to finding my missing piece. Then, out of the blue, I saw it, without really looking. I reread what I’d written and knew exactly where I had to go. And somehow, that idea connected with what was going to happen next. And so on and so on.

I’ve come to realize that this is one of my favorite parts of writing. The way things come together, sometimes on purpose, but other times, almost by accident, leading me to the next portion. I don’t know if I appreciate this so much because of my passion for puzzles, but the similarities are not lost on me.
These days, my children often ask me if they can have “puzzle marathons”. They take out all of their puzzles and spend hours in their rooms putting them together until there is no space left to walk on the floor. If this is an interest they’ve inherited from me, I’m happy about it. I don’t know if it will translate into any other interests for them as well, but I look forward to finding out.

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