Yup, that’s me. Jigsaw McGraw. I have recently completed a jigsaw puzzle. Not a littly, but a real big motherboard of a puzzle board. 1000 pieces. What the politesse police of the English language would consider a “challenge”. What in fact is a nightmare of infuriation wrapped inside a moment or two of satisfaction gratififaction. And this is the third such puzzle I have completed in a month. Not exactly Olympian levels of puzzle performance, but not basement beginner stuff either.
It’s what I do during pandemics. Well, not really. Perhaps it is what pandemics do during me.
It was one thousand pieces of pain. A detailed map of France. And totally in contrast with the real country of France, all the bits looked strikingly the same. The puzzle was a struggle.
Something interesting happened on the way to the formation of the completed puzzle. To me.
Now if you are a writer you will be well aware of the fact that when you are writing, everything else around you, near and far, moi et toi, appears to be somehow oddly connected to the very story that you are writing. Hell, let’s be honest, it doesn’t seem to be connected. The cogs and chains of the Universe are cogging and chaining in direct synchrony to the story that you are unveiling.
And so it was that my activity with the puzzle, fuzzled its way right into my writing life.
First of all, you have to get the outline right. Yes, the edge pieces, the framework, the structure, the outer skin of the world within. Get a part of that wrong and you you you yes you are sumply sunk afore ye sail. Additional note : there is always an error somewhere in the framework, or a missing piece, or an impossible bend to that line that must be straight. Additional additional note : you may only discover the error much much later, by the time you have already shut down the error detector.
Well, I achieved a framework of sorts and moved onto the next phase. Here one gets into a bit of rhythm. The pieces are thematic, it is clear where they will go, what belongs where, and why, and with what else. Yes, Jack my boy, you are on a bit of a roll now.
This latest novel is going to be a snack to complete.
But then the river runs dry. La Madame of mild concern arrives first. Then the nasty cousins drop kick in – Monsieur frustration, along with his brothers, big M.anger and little M. depression. Miss Angel d’acceptance never made an entrance, in spite of her incessant door knocking activity.
“Don’t force that piece into place, Jack. If it doesn’t fit, and fit precisely, it doesn’t belong there. You know what I’m talking about!”
In that mire in the middle of the novel, nothing seems to fit in properly. Yes, it needs to go somewhere, but for fuck’s sake, where?
And then there are the little wins. A piece that you have been staring at in total bewilderment for ages, suddenly finds its place, often the very place you have been looking at for those same ages. Other pieces find their rightful place only after other other pieces are secured and have made their patterns known.
Sure, some of it is thought, logic, design and creativity, but sometimes the most powerful progress arises through the process of trial and success, or via the splashdown of serendipity.
There are dark moments. Fuck me, are all the pieces even there? Is it some kind of design flaw from the factory floor?
But then the light always reappears, just in time. Or at least sometime. Yes, you have to backtrack a bit, make the adjustments here and there, curse and swear, open a beer. But the train steams on, and there is a destination out there, somewhere. You can see it; you can feel it.
All the pieces eventually fit into place, including those few stray dogs that just didn’t seem to belong anywhere. Those little detestable darlings become my enduring endearing favourites.
Yes, the moment of climax has arrived. The final piece has been placed. The novel is written and the puzzle is complete. My jigsaw, my map of France, lies in glorious relief upon my kitchen table. Yes, I feel in some respect a better man. After all, I am a writer.
Universe, continue as before…