Introduction: Puzzling - Own Your Distortion

There is a lot of crossover language between creative practices and puzzle building. At least, I use a lot of puzzle-building language when talking about creative practices.

We’ve all done a jigsaw puzzle on a snowy day. A scramble of loose pieces on the kitchen table, it is your job to orient all of them in the right direction and seat them together. Sometimes you may even have an accurate picture on the box cover - a little something to guide you through the assembly journey.

Maybe you start on the corners, or you find a very striking color pattern in the middle and work your way outward.

Everything is there; you just need to take the time to put it together. A few hours later, you have a solved puzzle that may or may not look like the cover of the box.

How about a crossword puzzle? Crosswords are not always so cut and dry. There are clues for words that need to intersect horizontally and vertically. Most days, one letter per box. The more words you solve horizontally, the more letters you have to work with vertically - and vice versa. On harder puzzles, there can be several letters in a box (rebus!) and it might take you all of Sunday to finally realize it. Other times, the arrangement of black and blank squares is a clue in and of itself. Some crossword puzzles have math problems hidden in them. It’s best to just throw these in the garbage where they belong.

Solving a crossword can be a challenge, which is why I admire those who construct crosswords.

This course will ultimately ask you to look at the world as a writer. Regardless of your creative goals, working through things as a writer will help you put together a better puzzle.

The thing about puzzles: there has to be a solution.

As a writer, you are building a puzzle for someone else to put together.

Some audiences love a challenge because the payout of discovery is better than sex.

For other people, assembling a hamburger is about the most complicated of a puzzle they can handle. The world needs both.

For you to build the puzzle, you first have to solve your puzzle. You may have some pieces handy and ready to go. Others will need to emptied from the vacuum cleaner, and others still will need to be made from scratch. There is no picture on the box; you definitely don’t have all of the clues in front of you. In the absolute worst case, there may even be some math involved (I can’t help you there).

Once you build and solve your puzzle, then you have to find a way to get your audience to solve the puzzle for themselves.