Puzzle Me This

There have been many false starts but I thought I'd share what I've learned since I finally started making progress

I have a confession to make. Writing articles for Out of Lives is not the only writing that I do. Crazy, I know. For years I’ve done some things here and there, privately, none of which have seen the light of day; 99% of which never, ever will. However, it always arrives in fits and starts. Which keen observers would note is true of my output here as well. I find that I either have a lot to say or nothing to say, so my output reflects that; sometimes I go for weeks or even months without publishing anything and other times I’ve got 4 or 5 articles in the works at once. So, it’s no surprise that my own projects have followed a similar pattern. 

I’ve worked on a few things just on my own. Drawn up ideas, planned some things out but then nothing would come of it. Whether I’ve thought it wasn’t good enough or I couldn’t find the way to link the ideas I had together, my progress would always grind to a halt. I’ve worked collaboratively on some things too and those have gone much better. Between us, we’re sitting on enough scripts for nearly three series of a show but our work on those has followed that familiar pattern; A frenzy of work for a few weeks then virtually nothing for months at a time. Each flurry of activity has been great fun and I look forward to each one. They fall into that exclusive 1% club that I actually want to put out there in some shape or form. 

Recently I’ve started working on something just on my own once again. There have been many false starts but I thought I’d share what I’ve learned since I finally started making progress. My experience of writing so far has been like having thousands of jigsaw puzzle pieces. They’re all different shapes and sizes. The vast majority of which are completely blank. Only some of them are vivid and defined, representing a character, a place or an event; a piece of the story you are trying to assemble. There’s no box with the finished picture on it that you can use for reference. You’ve got thousands of pieces but you’ve no idea how many you’ll actually need to use. There’s no use trying to colour in every piece before you try to place them either because you’ll get lost in the minutiae of it all. No, the best way forward is to find the most vivid pieces. They’re the most important. 

You place them down and you build your puzzle out around them. Piece by piece you’ll go. Building all the while. Before you know it you’ll have a section done, clearly defined in your mind and on your page. If you’ve got a vivid idea for a character, take it and build around it. Who are they, where are they, how did they get there, where are they going? Those are pieces you can try to build but if they are too big you can go smaller. Do they like soup, are they friendly, are they happy or sad? Not every piece you’ll lay will be right the first time. Even pieces that seem right at first won’t remain so and will have to be moved. That’s okay too. Either you won’t need that piece or it’ll find a place elsewhere that finds it much more suitable. Eventually, you’ll find the piece you need to get going once again. Progress can be fast or slow and it can alter on a single sentence or stumble on a single word. Just go with the flow, take your time, as it’s okay for your progress to vary so wildly.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far has been specifically about writing, as that is what I’ve been doing. However, I imagine this applies to any creative pursuit. I don’t know if what I’m working on will ever see the light of day or if I’ll ever finish it. What matters is that I’m enjoying the process of creating it. After a few false starts over many years, I’ve finally made significant progress on something I am making on my own. That’s nice on its own. As long as I’m enjoying it I plan to continue on. 

Hopefully, you can do the same, whatever it is you’re working on.


Adam is a Writer, Editor & Podcaster here at Out of Lives. He casts a wide net across popular culture with video games & anime, in particular, featuring heavily in his work for the site. Hailing from a town just outside Glasgow, this Scotsman can usually be found roaming the Northern Realms on The Path or behind the wheel of a Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle-Car.
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