If you’ve ever put together a jigsaw puzzle, then you already know how a writer comes up her ideas. It’s one meaningless piece at a time, pulled out of a jumbled cardboard box of everything a writer has seen, heard, touched, felt, dreamed, or imagined – because all writers are fearful magpies; we collect and hoard every little thing that crosses our paths, as though anything might be the last of everything. Eventually, since all jigsaw boxes are finite, our box starts bulging at the dreams. Things start leaking back through into our ordinary life; we find ourselves standing motionlessly in front of the running tap while we consider an image of a deep city of darkness falling away beneath our feet, or a man with a feather quill writing words into flesh with ink and blood.
And we know it’s time.
We pour out our box onto the table, and we start sorting through the pieces, looking for the ones that shine the brightest, or have the most lovely gloom. They are a bit of overheard conversation, a magazine headline that we misread in an interesting way, or the sound of a mother calling her child home in the darkness. We turn those pieces this way and that way, until they join together in our imaginations, and we see a little glimmer of the finished picture – no more than a single window in our mythical deep city, perhaps, but enough to show us where they connect, and the place that gives them meaning.
And it’s in that place that a story is found.