Pieces of a Puzzle

I feel uneasy. It doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t quite fit. I try fighting it, I try forcing the pieces into place, but they won’t go. I try writing and rewriting pieces that I know belong, but the uneasiness is distracting. I take a break. I play Sudoku, I eat a snack, I read. Then I come back to it, but as soon as I sit down at the computer I know it’s too soon, I don’t have any answers yet.

I’m working on the fifth chapter of my manuscript. I’ve placed the bits and pieces I’ve written over time, in an order that feels almost right. I’m trying to fit them together into a cohesive chapter. I need to rewrite some parts, I’ll have to write new material, there’ll probably be a bit of rearranging, and as the chapter emerges, I’ll smooth it out with transitions.

But somehow, it’s not working. I can’t bring myself to settle down and work at it, I’m distracted by the uneasiness that won’t go away.

I wander off to take another break. A buzzer goes off—the clothes in the dryer are ready. As I start folding laundry, I allow my thoughts to roam at will. They drift over to the issue of Chapter Five.

Why all the uneasiness? What is wrong with the material I already have? Which pieces belong, which further the story? Or more importantly, which pieces do not? Why am I so reluctant to dump that part, when it seems so peripheral to the story? What is important about it? Why do I remember this part so vividly, why am I so drawn to it, yet unhappy about it?

As I continued folding the laundry, the answers came to me. By the time I was finished, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the chapter. I rushed upstairs, sat down at the computer and got to work.

Certain now about the sequencing, I rearranged some of sections accordingly. I deleted several paragraphs that I now knew were extraneous. I reworked a new part that had been troublesome—it now flowed smoothly onto the screen.

Then I paused; I’d reached a section that held a questionable chunk of material in it. Does it need to go? Do I need to rewrite it? Or do I merely need to trim it down?

I read through it once, then again. I looked at my watch—it was getting late. I went to brush my teeth, mulling that section over in my mind. By the time I was finished in the bathroom, I figured out the purpose of that chunk and its place in the story, and I knew what I had to do—I needed to trim it down.

I sat down at the computer, took a look at it, and realized that I wasn’t quite in the frame of mind to work on it. I was still wound up from my successful searches for answers—I was not in the reflective mood that the piece required. I decided to call it a day, to work on it tomorrow; by then I'd unwind and probably be able to sink into a more contemplative mood.

I love the fact that you can't rush the process of fitting the pieces together, that it has to come to you at its own pace. I love how it percolates at various points throughout the day, when folding laundry, while triking, in the shower. I love when a solution comes to you in a flash; I also love it when it builds up gradually, from seed to full bloom. I love that “Aha!” moment, when you know that it’s just right, the same way you know when it’s not quite right.

To me, writing is a wonderful new adventure, and I love every aspect of it, even the parts that tear me apart as I write them.