It seems that for a long while I’ve been sitting on the floor with the frame of a puzzle in front of me, picking up the pieces and trying to make them fit, but having marginal luck. The inside of the frame was a big, senseless white space. I knew what I wanted to go there–what should be there–but the pieces remained a jumble of confusion. I would pick one up and try to fit its grooves within those already laid out, but rarely did I ever find its fit. Lately, however, my puzzle has been coming together. I can finally see the picture it will one day be. At first consideration it seemed the pieces just started falling from the sky, dropping into their assigned grooves with little effort on my part. But, that sort of thinking is a discredit to all the of the work I have put into this. No. The truth is there was no act of divinity, no gift from the heavens; I put the pieces there myself.
I had them all along, these chunks of experience or success, or whatever you want to call them. They were the pile by my knee, the pieces I so desperately wanted to fit inside my puzzle frame. If the parts weren’t nestled against the grooves of their mates, then they didn’t count. I had to have the big picture done, the whole puzzle reflecting its image back to me before I could say, “This is my accomplishment.” What I didn’t realize, though, was the pile of pieces was already a reflection of something far greater–understanding. With each piece I picked up and examined, I learned more about it, where it went–more importantly, where it didn’t. I got to know these bits of myself and my work, and even if I didn’t find a place for them in the puzzle, they helped me better know its design. After a long time with these bits, I began to look at the puzzle itself. Maybe building it in the traditional sense wasn’t working for me. Going from the outside, in, framing the picture with four rigid corners before allowing the interior components to take their place was what was recommended–say where you want to go and then make it happen, piece by piece, layer by layer until at last the tantalizing center clicks into position. Maybe I had to seize different pieces, turn them into agglomerations of new and unexpected experiences so I might build my puzzle from the inside out, create the final image with the slow drifting together of several different aspects of the whole.
And so it was I looked at my puzzle from a different angle. I picked up pieces and fit them in ways I hadn’t before considered, as obsessed as I had been with building it the traditional way. Some of the pieces still didn’t fit as I’d hoped. Others, ones I hadn’t even considered, fit into the puzzle with surprising ease. And so I made my foray into a new genre–one less socially and literarily accepted–and found that the doors previously closed to me were wide open. And I went through.
My puzzle remains the same, the image of successful author. I am simply looking at more of the pieces, now. And I like what I see.
We’ll talk more about specifics later on.