Collecting Pieces of the Creative Mosaic

by Chris McMahon

It struck me the other day how much creative work is like assembling a mosaic. You work on collecting or constructing all the pieces – they might be tiny slices of character, story, setting – and gradually piecing them all together into a whole. Sometimes you have to work to create a piece you know is missing, other times you get a variety of pieces that fit somewhere, and maybe not in the thing you are actually working on:) The same people who run the infamous Idea of the Month Club, also ensure these pieces are delivered regularly and at the most inconvenient times.

There really does seem to be some sort of instinctive way these things come together, like an invisible colour-coding on the side of each piece, or an edge like a puzzle-piece, instinctively felt.

I think everyone has had the experience of pulling these pieces together, assembling them gradually into a whole. Some people start with an idea of what the whole mosaic should look like in the end, and go looking for the pieces, some people find the pieces as they go and use them to discover the shape of the whole.

The thing that got me thinking was how often you let some of these pieces slip through your fingers because you don’t know where they fit, or perhaps because the mosaic you imagine they might fit into is just so overwhelmingly large you think you will never ever be able to finish it. I think you need to trust the inner muse. Keep a hold of those pieces and trust they will fit in somewhere – that they are a part of something that your subconscious knows the shape of, and that will emerge if you keep all the pieces in plain sight.

Have you come across some strange puzzle ‘pieces’ that don’t fit your project? Did you ever have the experience of finding that they did fit, but in the most improbable ways? Or do you put theminto the recycle for later?

8 thoughts on “Collecting Pieces of the Creative Mosaic

  1. I think anytime you do research for a book, you bring home more puzzle pieces than you need. Some times they suggest a delightful sub plot. Sometimes they make it utterly impossible to frame the story the way you wanted (%$#@ pieces, and you’re not allowed to throw them back, either). Some times they find their way into a completely different story. And some times they’re simply interesting things to know.

    1. Hi, Pam. You are so right. You are spot on about not being able to throw the damn things back! They do tend to accumulate.

      Even so I can’t help thinking there must be a reason you can’t throw that piece away. It has to fit in somewhere.

      Then again, given half a chance, I would be a hoarder. . .

  2. What I love is when the bits don’t seem to fit, and then suddenly do and everything works out better than you expect. Although it could be argued I should curb my tendenc to plot by sudden flashes of “brilliance” which make series very hard to write.

    1. Hi, Sarah. No! Don’t curb the sudden flashes of brilliance. It makes the whole thing stand out for one, and for another it’s so much fun:)

  3. I still maintain that while I’ve written plenty of stories, I’ve never actually created one. There are these people – real characters – who stand behind me and dictate events that happened to them. Research is just them refreshing their memory on a certain fact or location. ;-P

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