Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fitting the Pieces Together

When I was a kid, we used to do jigsaw puzzles in the winter, often over the semester break. A few months ago my wife purchased a couple of puzzles. And at first I was like, “Okay, sure,” knowing that I had so many other things to do that involved deadlines and pressure and people counting on me that the puzzles would probably just sit in their boxes.

But now that we’ve started one during the dark time of the year—and I was actually the one who initiated it—I’m totally digging it. We’ve been carving out a little puzzle-time a few nights a week and I love how the rest of life drops away as I get absorbed in the satisfying task of searching for the right piece.

As the puzzle started taking shape, I was totally struck by how putting a puzzle together is like my writing process. I can see some of the big things that will happen in a story and sometimes I can see how “I think” they will be connected, and I can even somewhat define the parameters of the story, but there is a lot left to figure out and to play with.

And with writing, we not only figure out where all the pieces go; we create the pieces.

And, yeah, sometimes the pieces you see are blurry.
You can have some amazing scenes and ideas, but without all the pieces you don’t have a story. And sometimes the most non-descript parts of a story—the times between the big scenes—can be the most difficult to figure out.

Unfortunately our puzzle had a missing piece.
Happy Holidays! And safe travels if you’ll be heading out to visit friends and family. We’re heading to Northern Arizona to visit friends and to do a little hiking.


  1. That's a beautiful puzzle (even with the missing piece!). Puzzles are fun, and you're so right how it's analogous to writing. Including the frustration that comes with trying to find the right puzzle piece, or the right word!

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  2. Spot on analogy!! We are puzzle lovers over here! it's so relaxing to do one with my seven-year-old. In fact we have one sitting on the table waiting for us as we speak! :-)

  3. That entire section of green looks really hard. I can complete about a 200 piece kids puzzle with big solid colored objects in the pictures. The ones from Melissa and Doug. :)

  4. Paul, this is a great comparison to writing. Even the little pieces of the story have to be interesting and compelling and putting a puzzle together is exactly how I see it too. I was a HUGE puzzle fan when I was kid and I always worked on them from the outside in, which is kind of how I approach my books. Filling in that big void in the middle can be the hardest part! ;)

  5. YES! I always feel this way especially during the first round of revisions. It's like I've been given a new border and have to make the pieces fit in a different way.

    And love doing jigsaw puzzles, although my husband nearly refuses to do them with me. I guess I can get too bossy - haha! It's hard to be competitive with a puzzle, but I manage. ;) Happy puzzling!

  6. I have no skill or patience for puzzles, but I can work on the same manuscript for years and years. Funny!

  7. I absolutely LOVE this post, Paul!! What a fantastic and PERFECT analogy for writing. I love putting puzzles together, but sometimes it can be so frustrating--just like my story!! :-)

  8. Dang! The Mr. O comment was from Shannon. I need to sign the husband OUT! :-)

  9. Totally LOVE and AGREE with this!

  10. Hey everyone! Thanks for stopping by. :-)
    No puzzling for me today--too busy packing, but I hope to be puzzling over a story soon.

    And yes, Laura, the green section was really hard!

  11. Great post, Paul. Enjoy your Holidays in the sunshine.

  12. I like your comparison of putting a puzzle together to the writing process. Pretty puzzle even with a piece missing. It's been quite some time since I've sat down to put a puzzle together. Glad you found some time to do it.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!