Puzzle solver: what jigsaws and copywriting have in common

Detail from one of my finished jigsaws: The Study of Squares by Wassily KandinskyLike many others, I turned to various creative pursuits for a welcome distraction during lockdown. One of these was rediscovering a favourite childhood pastime: jigsaws.

Not only has this helped take my mind off other things these past few months, but you could even say I’ve become a bit of a jigsaw addict. More than a bit, if I’m honest!

But what’s all this got to do with copywriting? Well, it struck me recently that there are numerous similarities between the two activities.

At the top level, both involve piecing together multiple individual components to create the whole ‘picture’ – solving the puzzle, as it were. And if we look closer at the actual creative processes, here’s where we discover lots more similarities…

Be organised

Before diving into any copywriting job, it pays to do your research: understand the brief, identify the target audience, carry out online research etc. Before getting stuck into a jigsaw, it’s worth spending the time to sort the pieces. This might be by colour, shape or even size. At the very least it’s a good idea to find all the edge pieces first. In both cases you’ll probably end up having to do some adjustments as you go along, such as additional research or extra sifting. However, the more organised you are at the outset, the more productive you’re likely to be.

Prepare the framework

With most jigsaws, it helps to start off by joining up all the edge pieces. This shows you the overall size of the puzzle and therefore the scale of the task ahead! In copywriting terms, it helps to create a rough outline first. For example, if working on a blog post, this might be a working title and some provisional sub heads. Once the basic structure is in place, it’s then easier to start filling in the gaps.

Keep an open mind

Try to stay flexible. Just because it looks or sounds like something ‘belongs’, it doesn’t necessarily mean it does. There may be a better solution if you try it another way. This could be as simple as rotating a jigsaw piece or flipping a sentence back to front. But if it still doesn’t ‘fit’, don’t try to shoehorn it in.

Know when to move on

The same applies if you’re struggling to locate an elusive piece or conjure up a particular word/phrase. Rather than battling on and growing ever more frustrated, move on to another section. The difficult bit will still be there when you revisit it, but you may have some new ideas or inspiration by then.

Take a break

On that note, it’s important to take regular breaks so you come back to the task at hand with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what will jump out at you when you do. This might be a missing piece that you were convinced was never in the box. Maybe a glaring typo that you can’t believe you didn’t spot before. Or the perfect phrase that was lurking on the tip of your tongue.

Work piece by piece

While it’s important to keep an eye on the bigger picture (a.k.a. end result) it often pays to focus on one section at a time, rather than jumping about all over the place and forgetting where you’d got up to. It also prevents you from duplicating effort, trying things you’ve already tried but rejected.

Focus on the detail

With jigsaws and copywriting alike, small details can make a BIG difference. So look closely at the shape of or pattern on each puzzle piece. Take time to double check the spelling, grammar and punctuation in your written content. Attention to detail always pays off in the long run.

Enjoy the ride

Last but by no means least, enjoy the challenge and the sense of satisfaction when it all comes together! Then sit back and admire what you’ve created, before starting all over again on the next puzzle or piece of content…

So I hope you’ll agree that jigsaws and copywriting have more than a few things in common. If you can think of any other similarities between the two, do let me know in the comments below. Meanwhile, keeep puzzling!

Image: extract from ‘Colour Study of Squares’ by Wassily Kandinsky 

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