After Christmas this year I felt the need to do something other than sit at my computer all day so I was elated when I found this unopened jigsaw puzzle in my basement. It had been there so long its source was no longer known but I hauled it out and spread it across my dining room table. There would be no dinners there for a while!
Undaunted by the number of pieces–500 or was it 10,000?–I searched for the border to give the scene a shape, first and foremost. The colours called me and I started to see similar tones, grouping them together in bunches wherever I could find a clear spot on the table.
I was diligent about sitting down to the task but counted myself lucky if I placed 5 pieces properly in a 20-minute session. The task seemed impossible and I soon wondered if I had bitten off more than I could comfortably chew; nevertheless, I found myself drawn to sit at that table four or five times a day or even just stand and stare at it until I saw something. Rarely did I walk away having found nothing.
The picture grew on my table but certain parts just wouldn’t come together. I couldn’t find the right pieces to complete them so I just worked on what did make sense. And I loved the struggle. Beautiful windows full of books and wine glasses and artwork fit together in one extended scene, like a bunch of comparative words filling in the subjects of a grand metaphor.
I took pictures, realizing that this was a work of art in progress and I would do well to record its birth as I do the rough drafts of my novels. By now February had whistled in with cold drafts that made sitting in the warmth at my table just a little more pleasant. And, of course, the puzzle began to reveal itself more clearly to me. I had to push on, excited at the thought of a finished work.
Back at my computer not much was happening with my writing. I had several ideas that went nowhere; I tried to decide just what project might excite both me and my readers; I consoled myself in my indecision by sitting at my dining room table and solving at least one puzzle. If I couldn’t decide on my next writing project I could certainly find the solution to that mass of pieces on my table.
And it calmed me. My need to be creative was sidetracked into that by now very beautiful work of art in my dining room. I felt anxious to finish it. Besides, I wanted to have a dinner party. It was time!
Near the end of my puzzle odyssey I invited my sister and her husband for dinner and actually laid newspapers across the almost finished puzzle and then placed my tablecloth over the top. They might have been just a little intimidated because I cautioned them against any spills!
By now the third month of the year had marched in and I longed to finish. Like a horse putting on that last burst of speed before the finish line, I sat longer at the table and actually laughed out loud at each piece that found its resting place.
Finally the day came. I grabbed my phone and recorded the finished puzzle just to prove I had done it. I’m sorry now I didn’t take a shot from the bottom of the scene but you get the idea. Notice how many extra pieces are on the table. None!
This is so like our journeys as writers. I learned to set myself a goal each day (3 pages) and watch the word count rise and the printed chapter pile get higher and higher. Putting finish to my novels took about two years for each one. My biggest accomplishment, I think, was to keep going little by little until I reached my goal. I certainly remember the day my first box of books arrived in my home. The Loyalist’s Wife was no longer a dream but something I could hold in my hand. For some reason I can’t find that photo but, believe me, it’s engraved on my heart. Patience, persistence and perseverance paid off beautifully. I wish that feeling for each hard working writer out there.
The Loyalist Trilogy