Puzzle Girl

I wish I were a quilter, or a knitter, or a sewer. Then I might have something concrete to show for hours of relaxing activity. But alas, my favourite mindless* recreation is jigsaw puzzles.

Oh how I love a good puzzle! One of the best things about our recent renovation was that it gave us the space to set up a jigsaw puzzle table without tripping over it constantly. I couldn't believe my luck when we found perfectly nice 1000 piece puzzles on sale at Woolies for $1.60 -- we bought three. (Though it seems sort of wicked that they could possibly be that cheap.)

I think the reason I enjoy jigsaws so much is that they engage parts of my brain that are otherwise sadly neglected (ie the visual parts!) and let the parts of my brain that are over-active (ie the verbal parts) switch off. Picking out the corners and edge bits; sorting through the pieces for flashes of white; scanning for patterns and colours that might go together -- it's all extremely restful, wordless, meditative. My mind clicks into a different gear; I become an observer, not a commentator. My actions are simple, slight and immediately satisfying: notice a similarity, pick up a piece, try it in the gap. Yes, it fits; or no, reject. Next piece. I'm very methodical; that's part of the zen.

And at the end, you get a lovely picture! Admire it for a couple of days, then sweep it back into the box for next time.

Sometimes I think that writing a novel is a bit like doing a jigsaw, too. You have to juggle things around, look at them from different angles, try a bit here and a bit there, discard and try again. Sometimes you force a piece into what seems like the right place, then you realise it actually belongs on the other side of the picture. And it's only right at the end of the process that it all makes sense. The key is to relax, and let your unconscious mind skim across the problem. The answer is there somewhere, and sooner or later, you'll find it.

* Of course quilting, knitting and other such creative pursuits are far from mindless. Perhaps that's the problem... for me.

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