Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Just a big complicated puzzle

Something an LJ friend said (in a locked post, so I won't link) helped me to look at writing in a completely different way. S/he likened writing a novel to solving a really complex and wonderful puzzle. And a little light bulb clicked on in my brain. If I look at novels in that way, writing a novel can be its own justification. Whether or not it's ever published is simply a side issue.

I do love solving puzzles. I'm not a big crossword fan and I've never taken to sudoku, largely because once I've worked out how to do that type of puzzle, it simply becomes repetitive. Partly it's because I like my puzzles a bit less artificial. The messier and more complex the better!

The puzzle-solving aspect was the part of the civil service job that I enjoyed most. My colleagues hated what we called 'site cases'. Churches were entitled to grants for building a school on a piece of land that they owned. It could get very complicated because they might have bought a large parcel of land and only part of it was going to be used for a school. Sometimes they tried to claim grant on the same piece of land more than once! Someone therefore had to track everything back and find out the history of the piece of land in question. Documents and plans could go back decades and files could be several inches thick, but I loved sorting it all out and presenting everything concisely and clearly. Similarly, I looked on teaching as a puzzle-solving activity, namely you have information or a skill you have to convey to other people, what is the best way to break it down so they can assimilate it most easily?

So transferring this insight to writing fiction, I've always thought of myself as a story-teller and therefore if I couldn't get my stories published, which meant there was no audience, there was no point in writing them down. But if I look on it purely as a huge puzzle and a mental exercise to keep my brain active, I can stop worrying about publication. Suddenly writing has a point again and isn't just a self-indulgence and a waste of time. :)

[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup http://heleninwales.dreamwidth.org/42514.html. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]

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