Why Writing Is Like Solving a Puzzle – And Why That’s Good News For You

By on September 3, 2015 in Leadership with 10 Comments

Image of placing a piece in a puzzle

There’s a very logical reason so many people are terrified of writing. Fortunately, they’re wrong to hold this fear. I’ll explain it this way.

The only profession I’ve ever held other than writing was as a real estate appraiser. Actually it was more of a paid hobby than a profession. But I loved it. Here’s why.

Appraising is like solving a puzzle. You pull together all sorts of details about the property you’re valuing, as well as details on similar properties in the area, to arrive at a data-supported estimate of your subject property’s value.

You subtract a few thousand dollars from your subject because a nearby home has a pool, and your subject doesn’t. You add a few thousand because your subject has an extra bathroom or hardwood floors, and the other properties don’t. Slowly, a picture emerges of what the property is worth, and why. It really feels like solving a puzzle.

Not so with writing. Writing feels so… linear.

It’s our training. In school, our stories had to have a beginning, middle and end. Our reports and essays required an introduction, followed by a body, and finally a summary and conclusion.

And if you’ve ever taken courses or read books on business writing, you’ve probably learned the key is to take your reader smoothly from one thought or idea to the next, in a clear and logical order.

Yes, the output of writing is linear.

And I think that’s why it scares people, why so many of us freeze when we’re faced with a blank page. If I don’t have my very first thought for this report, we reason, how can I write the second thought? Or the eighth? Or the 37th or the 100th?

But that’s wrong. Writing is solving a puzzle. If you can think of it that way, it’s a whole lot easier to get started — and you might actually find the process fun.

How? Start with your 18th idea.

If you have an idea about a list of items that should go somewhere in your presentation, start writing them.

If you have an important insight or argument you know belongs somewhere in your report, just write it out. You can move things, add, delete and embellish later. For now, just start placing your puzzle pieces on the board.

Yes, if you really needed to have your first thought composed flawlessly before you could to move to your second, writing would be horrific. You’d feel paralyzed after completing every sentence.

But you don’t have that problem. Writing does not need to be a linear process. You’re solving a puzzle. Start with piece 18.

© 2016 Robbie Hyman. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robbie Hyman.

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About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of www.MoneySavvyTeen.com, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.

Robbie is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies. Visit RobbieHyman.com for more information.

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