On Jigsaw Puzzles and Perseverance in Writing
I have a close friend who hates jigsaw puzzles. She says she doesn’t have the patience for them, that it takes too long to hunt down one little piece at a time, and the progress just isn’t fast enough.
I, on the other hand, along with my kids, I think, really enjoy them. I don’t do them as often as I would like—for an abundance of reasons—but when I’m presented with one, I get sucked into the process. I few years ago, some longtime girlfriends and I got together for a ladies’ weekend getaway and the cabin we rented had a few of them. It was therapeutic to sit and talk and sip wine and catch up, all while gradually working on a puzzle. There were three of us working together on different sections, eyes scanning for just the right combination of shape and color.
I revel in the feeling of spinning something just right, slowing piecing together a large picture that not only makes sense, but provides beauty to the world. There’s a spike of gratification that comes when you click something together just right.
And I think that’s a reason that writing can be so rewarding. Because you start with a jumble of ideas, of letters and words, and slowly, but surely, you build them into something beautiful.
Now, we’ve all had moments working on a puzzle when the I can’t do it feeling takes hold. You feel like you’ve tried all the puzzle pieces, or turned each of them this way then that, failing to get things to go together just right. It’s the same with writing. Sometimes you know a scene isn’t quite right, and you don’t know how to tweak it so it works. Or maybe your plot isn’t holding together, or your characters and emotion aren’t fully fleshed out. Sometimes the puzzle pieces of writing just don’t seem to fit, no matter how many ways you spin it.
Well, you have three choices: quit, pause, or persevere.
For my puzzle-hating friend, quitting (puzzles, at least) is more her jam. But for those of us that love the process, quitting doesn’t feel like the best option. Not when we’ve already put so much time and energy into the project.
The thing about the other two options is that they honor the time you’ve already spent, and allow you to improve, especially the latter.
Me personally, I’m a big fan of taking a pause. A temporary pause, that it. The problem is, though, that these pauses can sometimes last too long. The longer you spend time away from something, the harder it is to return to it—especially with writing. This is why so many authors have those half-finished (or 1st drafts) novels that are tucked away in a drawer never to see the light of day.
The truth is, it takes perseverance and grit to write a book, especially a darn good one. Writing a book means pushing forward, even when you feel the tension of struggle pulling you down, when you hear the lure of other things (stories, activities, people) tempting you from the sidelines. Perseverance, like writing, isn’t for the faint of heart.
But just imagine that finished product—the smooth, intricately woven, perfectly positioned puzzle pieces that you had to place just right to get it to this place of beauty. Imagine how that would feel to hold that book in your hand and heart.
I promise that, if you persevere, even if the book never gets published, that feeling will make it all worth it.