Monday, October 15, 2012
Sudoku and the Art of Writing
Practise improves performance. The more I do the puzzles, the better I am at solving them. I grow familiar with what to look out for, plus it takes me less time to get it right. The same with writing. The more I write, the better I become. I grow more skilled at creating believable characters, I grow more familiar with what to look out for to improve the story, and it takes me less time to get it right.
A methodical approach aids clarity of thought. When I approach Sudoku in a haphazard way, I inevitably get lost in the maze of possibilities and I make a mistake. When I approach the puzzle in a more methodical way, carefully mapping out, and taking note of the possibilities, mistakes are far fewer. The same goes with writing.
Patience eases the process. When I'm in a hurry to solve a puzzle, I invariably make a mistake or I simply don't do a good job. The process becomes a struggle and, when I'm in that frame of mind, I'll be more likely to give up. Writing also takes time and requires oodles of patience to get it right. And without patience, I forget to enjoy the process.
Breaks are necessary for clearing the mind. For the more difficult puzzles, I'll get stumped and can't move on. If I take a break from the puzzle, then when I return I'm more able to spot the solution because I'm looking at it with a clearer mind. Writing requires me to take occasional breaks from it as well. If I don't take a break then I get mired in the little details and can't see the big picture, or my writing simply becomes stale.
Sometimes it takes stubborn persistence to finish. While some Sudoku puzzles seem impossible, I know there is always a solution. It just takes some persistence to get it done. The same goes for writing. If I stick with it, I'll get the result I want.
Just because the way is messy, doesn't mean the end result can't be achieved. I might be an artist, but I'm terrible at visualising an end result. I have to write or draw everything down to be able to 'see' it. I guess that's why I love to outline first. For Sudoku, this means I write down all the number possibilities in the little boxes. As you can see in the picture, there's hardly enough room for all that mess, but it brings me the result I crave: a solved puzzle. With writing, I make a similar mess in the outlining process. I used to stress about the amount of notes I needed, about the scribbled changes, the tangled arrows, the scratched out ideas. Then I realised that mess is great if it gets me the end result I want. Besides, no one will see the process. They will only ever see the shiny finished manuscript.
Which of these points resonates with you the most? Can you add any other similarities? Have you ever played Sudoku?
*Sudoku is a puzzle traditionally solved when each of the digits 1 to 9 appear once in each of the 9 rows, 9 columns and 9 3x3 boxes.