Finding the border pieces

This is how it feels to me, this process of writing a book.

Four nearly two years, I’ve been collecting pieces. Now I have thrown them onto a card table and started sifting through them, looking for some that fit together to form a pattern. But this jigsaw puzzle has no box with a picture on the front to guide my discovery. So I don’t even know what image I’m trying to create. And all of the puzzle pieces look like waves in the ocean or snatches of clear, blue sky — indistinguishable.

How will I ever put them together? I push the pieces around the table, becoming increasingly anxious and fearful. It would be so easy to dump it all into the trash, be done with it, move on. Avoid my fear and give up. Let someone else write this story. I’m tired, overwhelmed, undeserving.

And yet it tugs at me, refusing to let me ignore it. So I go back to the table and pick up another piece, searching desperately for one that will connect to it.

I remember my mother working jigsaw puzzles on a card table in the living room, teaching me her strategies, showing me her patience. “Put like pieces with like pieces,” she would say as she grouped the green pieces that would form trees and the red pieces that would form a barn into separate piles. “Start with the border pieces,” she instructed me, pointing out that these were the easiest to find because they each had one straight side.

I have found some of the border pieces. And though I still face great uncertainty about my ability to fill in the puzzle, the excitement of that small accomplishment is almost more than I can bear.

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2 responses to “Finding the border pieces

  1. Nice analogy! I’m working on compiling border pieces for my new novel right now, and it’s slow going but so rewarding. I’ll keep your image in mind as I keep picking through my growing piles of loose thoughts, pieces of language and tidbits of research.

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