My family loves to do jigsaw puzzles. There is typically an unfinished one sitting on our dining room table for weeks at a time, and every so often someone will sit down and work on it.
If you’ve ever attempted to complete a jigsaw puzzle, how did you begin? Did you just pick up random pieces and try them together to see if they fit? Or, did you stare at all of the pieces on the table, trying to mentally place them all together? No, of course not. You probably started with the edge pieces, because you know at least one thing about them: they belong on the outside of the puzzle. Once you’ve identified all of the edge pieces, you can begin to fit them together to form a “frame” around the rest of the puzzle. In this way, you work your way from what’s known to what’s unknown.
You can follow a similar process in your creative work. Start with the knowns, and work your way to the unknowns.
What do I know for certain about this problem?
What has definitely worked well in the past?
What do I know is off-limits?
What resources do I have to spend, whether time, money, or energy?
Once you’ve identified the “edge pieces” you can begin filling in the puzzle.
In your creative work, start from what’s known and work toward what’s unknown. Begin with the edge pieces.
Question: Is there a problem you’re stuck on right now? How can you step back and identify the edge pieces so that you have more clarity about how to proceed?