Jigsaw Puzzles and Writing

A Christian Riese Lassen Puzzle

A Christian Riese Lassen Puzzle

Did you know there's a lot of similarities between doing a jigsaw puzzle and writing a book?

Several years ago, I completed a jigsaw puzzle of an orchestra. It was all musical instruments, bald heads and red noses. It was a challenge and it was fun. I worked the jigsaw to keep my mind quiet and focused during an extremely busy time in my life. Putting all the pieces together helped in reducing stress when I felt my life was out of control.

I also found the shapes, splashes of colour and the slotting together of all those shapes and colours aided my creativity as I planned my manuscript. Ideas for my work come to me at different times and places. I jot them down on loose pieces of paper or in my trusty notebook with its worn, grubby edges. When I'm ready to start a new writing project, I have my puzzle pieces to hand, ie., the research content, characters, plot ideas, and setting. I sort and swap, change and rearrange all these elements together to make the plot of my new novel. I approach my jigsaws in the same way. I paddle my fingers through all the pieces, searching for all the straight edges and when that outline is finished, I start filling in the middle.

While I'm writing and puzzling, I have my earphones on and listen to my favourite musician, James Andrew Black. These two activities keep me focused and in the world I've created until the work is done. An added bonus is being able to rest the eyes on colour and shape, which is a great relief after looking at black and white text for extended periods.

Recently, I understood why the travelling around Australia exercise sabotaged my writing. I had no jigsaw puzzle time while writing Web of Lies and this project took much longer than I'd planned. Now, I'm one hundred percent focused on my new novel, Broken Dreams, working title. My new jigsaw, of two swimming dolphins, a Christian Riese Lassen puzzle, is laid out on my dining room table, ready for me to place random pieces whenever I get up and walk around to release the tension in my shoulders from hunching over the keyboard. By the time I finish writing my first draft, the puzzle is done, too. It's also a great visual tool to monitor the progress on my novel, as the puzzle comes together so does my manuscript.

How about you, do you have an activity you do while you're writing or performing your work?


When I Was Fourteen...

Life is what you make it.

Life is what you make it.

When I was fourteen , we spent our holidays at Noosa Heads. The surf crashed into a foamy mass that raced up the beach and clung to the sand at the edge of the water and when the water receded the sand became shiny as glass reflecting the blue sky and headland. It was an idyllic place for a troubled teenager.

I was becoming a woman and I wasn't sure if this was really what I wanted. My head filled with frightening thoughts of what it meant to grow up and be concerned about work, marriage, babies, life and death. How did other girls do life? Did they live in a perpetual state of fear where they didn't know who they were? I was confused with how to make friends and keep friends. My peers' language confused me: one moment we were buddies, the next they turned away and whispered behind their hands while glancing back at me. I chose to be alone.

That summer I was determined to find where I belonged in the world.

I body surfed every day, diving under the waves pretending I was a dolphin, swimming deeper and deeper into that silent world. When I came up for air, the salt water stung my eyes, but it didn't matter. The cool water on my skin made me feel special. I was a dolphin and dolphins were perfect. As I waded through the water, I used to cup the froth floating on top of the water in my hands, trying to capture perfection.

Perfection was what I longed for. It was how I saw my future. If I achieved perfection and cleanliness I'd be made. Little did I know perfection isn't possible, or did it come under the disguise of something else?

Every afternoon at about five o'clock, I sat on the rocks with my friend, the ocean breeze. We talked about life and it was perfect. The wind told me stories of other people's imperfect lives and how I could make mine perfect. The wind whispered to me that I had to listen to and trust the voice within me that had spoken to me ever since I can remember. I developed a wild mind that could take me to any place I wanted to go. I longed to get inside another person's head to see if their wild mind was the same as mine.

The weak afternoon rays of sunshine let me know I may have gotten just a little bit too much sun, but I didn't care. It was fun pretending to be a fish in the quiet world under the water away from the cacophany above the water. However, beneath all that calm I sensed a sinister more subtle chaos. When I learned to scuba dive in my early twenties, I experienced the sinister world that lurked beneath the surface of the water: fish eating fish.

I envied the eagle flying free above the chaos soaring high on the thermals above the rubble of human life. Years later when I had the opportunity to para-sail I sampled that space above the world, but I soon became bored with hanging in mid-air . However, under the sea, I was intrigued by what lurked under rocky ledges and in coral caves: a delightful discovery of a world beautiful and separate from humanity. In that watery atmosphere I understood sealife lived to the beat of their own intrigue, and so do humans.

Sitting on my rock that summer and staring out to the horizon, I decided the world was a dangerous place. Temporary peace surrounded me as I retreated into my own world. I understood I had a yearning for peace in my heart, but I sensed I had to live a life in order to find peace. I had to live a series of experiences: great and exciting; boring; painful; heartbroken and every other emotion in between in order for me to find the peace I craved. Otherwise how would I know peace when I found it.

That summer I had peace for a short time. I couldn't live on that rock of peace forever. If I did I would be dead. I had to get off the ledge and taste life. That meant living in the band between sky and sea: hearing; seeing; tasting; smelling; touching; loving; and hating. It meant walking beside others, stepping into their lives and trying to see life as they did.

It was the summer that changed my life. I had a glimpse into the journey that would end my search for perfection. I chose to live and take all that life was going to throw at me, and I knew I would survive. A quiet conviction settled on my heart that I wanted to be on the earth for the long haul. I didn't know God then but there was someone watching over me, and taking care of me. I had proof of that. I was an orphan and I'd travelled fourteen years into my life. I was alive and well. I had a quiet assurance there was more for my life and I wanted it, no matter how hard it was going to be.

I've returned to my ledge of peace many times to pause in the hectic schedule of life, to catch my breath, draw strength and renew before I step out for the next adventure. It's worth returning for renewal. My life has taken many paths: some good and some bad, and the paths I take in the future some will be right and some will be another learning experience.

Many challenges, but this life is the perfect life for me. How about you? Have you found your perfect life, or are you on the journey to finding it? I'd love to hear from you.