Don’t get me wrong. Some parts of writing are great. Like the “going to write” part. That’s when the beautiful dreams of stories flutter down like bright birds of paradise to alight on my shoulders and sing of untold wonders. That’s the bomb. I also love the “having written” part. Squarely in “the bomb” territory.

But in between those two… That’s where I want to chuck a bomb at the whole thing.

Imagine you’ve been given a jigsaw puzzle (and that you love a good puzzle). The picture on the cover is gorgeous—teeming with color and variety and vivid detail. It’s going to be so much fun to see it come together! You’ve got a big clean table, a mug of coffee, maybe even a little plate of cheese, crackers, and crisp apple slices. You can’t wait to get started. So you open the box.

The first thing you discover is that it’s not 1000 pieces like it said on the box. It’s 100,000 pieces. It’s going to take forever! You’re tempted to slip it back into the closet and get out a smaller, easier one. But you look at that beautiful picture on the box and nod. Worth it. So you dig in, searching for the edges. How big is it? Do I have it all? But wait. Where is that bit with the red bridge? And what are all these green speckles? After a while, the terrible truth dawns: The puzzle does not match the picture. Oh, it’s got some of the elements. There’s blue sky. Or is that water? There wasn’t any water in the picture. But why is a fish leaping out of the sky?

The thing you thought would be beautiful and fun turns out to be a complete mess. Nothing fits together. You’re sure pieces are missing; you’ll never find them. You take a break—ten minutes to clear your head. When you return four months later, the picture has changed into something else entirely, and the cat has batted a whole section onto the floor.

But you keep at it. In time, the picture starts to emerge. It might take years to finish. It’s not like the one on the box, but it has charms and mysteries that come clear; you start to like this new picture. Or at least not despise it.

It may be years later than you expected going in, but the day comes when you snap in the final piece. Congratulations! You’ve reached that blessed state of “having written.”