I love jigsaw puzzles, but it’s been several years since I’ve done one. When I was a kid, I remember my Uncle Spud always had a puzzle. When I visited or spent the night with my cousins, he’d let me ‘help’ with his puzzle. Over the years, my parents bought me puzzles and my love for them grew. Once I got married, I went to work as a hairdresser and had less time. When I sporadically put a puzzle together, my husband hated having them on the kitchen table for days. He soon noticed I get kind of obsessed.
I’ve mentioned before I don’t do them often. Because when I start a jigsaw puzzle, I don’t want to do anything else. Like write, edit, clean house, do laundry, or feed my family. I just want everybody to leave me alone and let me do my puzzle. Kind of like how I am when I write a book. Or read a book.
Several years ago, my parents got me a puzzle board. It’s awesome with drawers that pull out to keep the pieces in as I work. And it solved the puzzle on the kitchen table problem. It’s mobile and can be moved back and forth from the kitchen to the coffee table. Still, my husband didn’t appreciate my puzzling and constantly having to move it around. I tried to instill puzzling in our son, but he got bored with the setup progress. Still, every once in a while, he’d sit down and find a piece with me.
This past spring, we closed in our screened porch next to my office and converted it into a sunroom. I filled it with wicker furniture and seashells. The coffee table cried out for a puzzle and it’s my domain, so it doesn’t bother anyone. But these days, I have even less time for puzzling. Since editing is part of my life now, I have to find a balance. To make time for editing, writing, crafting, and puzzling. While still taking care of my house and family.
I’ve managed to strike a balance. Since I’ve gotten faster at editing, I can usually edit a book in a week. Then I have a week to write. For the past month, I’ve kept a puzzle on the coffee table. When I need an editing or writing break, I work on my puzzle. Just for 5 to 15 minutes, then I make myself go back to work. And sometimes, our 18-year-old son will sit down and find a piece with me. As for reading, I’m still doing that at night before I go to sleep. And I still don’t like dragging a book out for weeks, but it does give me more time to savor the story. I haven’t done any crafting lately, but at least I’m fitting in most of my pursuits.
It recently hit me, books are a lot like puzzles. When writing, I create my heroine, fit in the pieces of her life, career, goals, past, fears, and problems. Then I put together the hero, who’s perfect for her even though she doesn’t see it at first. I piece in his issues, family, backstory, hangups, and heartaches. Then I make their lives fit together in the end, just like a puzzle.
But sometimes, my cat, Charcoal jumps up in the middle of my puzzle, like he did the one at the top after it was two-thirds finished. So I move it to the shelf by the window in my office while I’m not working on it. So, he jumps up there and everything comes tumbling down-the cat, the puzzle, and the puzzle board. So I salvage the sections I can and start over with the rest. The same way, I sometimes have to rethink my book, salvage what I can, and start over with the rest.
The concept works for reading too. As a reader, I learn about each character and fit in the pieces of their puzzle, what makes them tick, what’s holding them back, what they must overcome to nab their happily-ever-after. Some of my reading involves unpublished submissions, with writers’ dreams in my hands as I must decide to crush them or give them flight.
Editing has expanded my genre reading. These days, I often make sure the pieces of the mystery fit together as a whole, that all the loose ends are tied up, everything in the story makes sense, and the characters’ reactions stay true themselves. Sometimes, our son will come sit with me on the daybed while I edit the puzzle into an interesting read. When he leaves, I go work on my jigsaw for a few minutes. It’s a good life.
I’m giving away a copy of my title, Hill Country Reunion. Comment or answer the question to get in the drawing. What puzzle has come together for you lately? Deadline: Dec 7th.