For Tuesday, March 29, 2016:
“Writing a book is like working a really difficult jigsaw puzzle without the benefit of knowing what the completed picture will be.”
Robert Gregory Browne
That’s half the fun of it! The part of me that is not a painter or draw-er loves to see an image take shape, come into colors and forms, as if I were doing it myself. Any puzzler knows how satisfying it is when you find the one piece that sets off part of a scene or fills in the main image after searching for and trying all other possible pieces.
In a way that happened to me last night. As usual it happened while I was doing the supper dishes.
(I wonder how many ideas and insights I missed out on when I had a dishwasher? And why just after supper, not the occasional times when I wash dishes after breakfast or lunch? But I digress …)
I can’t go into much detail because this is for my third novel that I’ve just started, and I don’t want to disperse the creative energy, but I can say it was one of those times that almost knocked me backward because of its simplicity and, I think, pure brilliance. It’s been in front of me for decades and even – no lie – three different centuries now.
One of my first cousins and I had occasion to chat back and forth on Facebook over the past weekend about our family medical history of Alzheimer’s Disease going back to our fathers’ grandfather. At the time of our great-grandfather, this awful scourge had not been named yet, there were no medications to slow the onset or ease symptoms once they set in, and patients were likely hidden away to avoid embarrassing the families. As horrible and terrifying as Alzheimer’s is nowadays, at least there has been some improvement in our societal understanding of the disease and the way we care for our loved ones in its grip, for the most part. That’s good news – well, better news – for those of us, like my cousin and me, who are in the genetic pool going back at least three successive generations.
The puzzle piece that slid into place for the new novel last night at the kitchen sink is based on two things: a couple of poems I wrote when I served as caregiver for my father as his Alzheimer’s started to get worse, and an old family tradition of a much more benign nature.
The new novel already has a complicated storyline, and this new idea is going to make it even more so, but I do look forward to spreading out all the pieces, searching for the right ones – without the image on the top of the box – and setting them into place. It will take a while, I’m sure, but I think it’ll be worth it. Good thing I love jigsaw puzzles!