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.