I’ve spent the best part of the last four days doing a jigsaw puzzle. I haven’t done one for a while but used to regularly spend between Christmas and New Year putting 1000 tiny pieces of a picture together. It’s a way to relax after the busyness of Christmas. It keeps me out of the heat and helps me avoid doing too much housework. It’s a challenge I enjoy and there is pleasure in seeing the picture emerge and take shape, as well as satisfaction in the completion.
I’m very glad I have the picture on the box to show me what the end result will be and to guide me along the way. Otherwise the pieces would make no sense to me at all. I always work the same way with a puzzle, getting all the edge pieces together first, so that I have boundaries and a framework. Then I work on a section at a time, drawing together colours, shapes and themes, focussing on detail, watching the picture come to life.
However, it didn’t take me too long this time to remember that doing a jigsaw puzzle can also be quite frustrating, that there are moments when I’m sure the maker has left pieces out, that some sections I thought would come together easily just aren’t making sense at all, that sometimes I have to walk away before I upend the table and scatter it all over the floor. And there are often pieces that catch my eye and I’m sure I can see exactly where they’ll fit in, but they end up in an entirely different part of the scene.
I’m sure you can guess where I’m going!
It didn’t take long before I was chuckling to myself as my mind turned often to the similarities between the way I do a jigsaw puzzle and the way I write. I start with a big picture, I put a framework together, and then I work on sections, filling in details, getting the pieces to fit together so they make sense and form part of the whole. I enjoy the journey and get excited when pieces come together. I love the satisfaction of the finished work. Sometimes I get frustrated when parts I’ve imagined will come together easily, just aren’t shaping up as I’d like. Sometimes characters or scenarios are not at all as I’d originally imagined and I have to adjust my thinking and move things around. I’m often surprised at how a story can take on a life of its own, as if I’m discovering it more than creating it.
I also found myself reflecting on whether the way I write, or do jigsaw puzzles, or in fact do many things in my life, are indicative of the way I approach life generally. I know I’m very grateful that I have a big picture of what my life is about, that I know where I’m heading, that I have a framework and boundaries to guide me. I'm also very aware that there are times I don't behave so well when things don't go as I'd like them to. There are sometimes pieces of life I'd like to throw out. But even though there are some frustrating, surprising pieces of life, and some that are hard to make sense of, or to fit into my ideal picture, I’m assured that my Maker has not made mistakes or left out essential pieces. I know eventually the picture will be perfect, the eternal story will be completed as it should be.
I know not every writer approaches their writing the same way but perhaps your writing process also says a lot about who you are and how you live your life. Do you reflect on how you do the smaller tasks of life? Are they indicative of how you approach life in general? I find it's quite a revealing exercise.
The end result of a time of reflection like this for me is the gratitude that comes with the realisation that whatever stories we live or write here on earth, whatever pictures we create, whatever shape our lives take, it’s all temporary. We can learn and grow from the tough pieces. We can persevere through the pieces that don’t make sense, that won’t fit together as we’d like. We can rejoice in the successes and blessings. We can leave behind some great words and images for others to be inspired and challenged by. But all of this is but momentary. We have a bigger story, a perfect picture awaiting us. How wonderful is that!
So I pray that 2017 is a good year for us all, that we write well, live well, have many successes and blessing. And I thank God that He will be there for us when life is a puzzle.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP. Next of Kin was released in 2015 by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released 2016. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.