Sunday, March 21, 2010

Excavating the Ancient and Discovering Gold a.k.a Listening to the Genius in the Corner

Laura and I have been busy (although not busy enough, which is why I will adopt and reincorporate by reference Perfect Games and Perfect Prose re: self flagellation. It will save us all another post on the topic of writing and discipline) with a new writing endeavor; one that's not quite flushed out, but does indeed, we assure you, have a plot. The devil and those details.

We've written often about our challenges writing The Pecking Order-the numerous iterations, the amazingly inconspicuous absence of a plot, the obscene overuse of introductory phrases, 90,000 words that were eventually whittled down to something just short of 60,000. And while we are both tremendously proud of The Pecking Order it its final iteration, we loved those 90,000 words - every last one of them. More than once we likened writing a paragraph to giving birth. We cried, sweat, and laughed over every last syllable. And well we should have. There was beauty and brilliance in those words - the 30,000 words that, at the end of the editing process, lay undignified, inert, debilitated in some forgotten word document for discarded prose. Scenes we cut, phrases we red-lined, characters we killed, all relegated to this document entitled "Ancient Pecking Order". And we let go of those things in the interest of marketing, following our heads, not our hearts, so even though it hurt, and even though our collective writing soul, the genius in the corner, that internal voice that makes Jayne Lynne, Jayne Lynne, told us differently (even screamed at us at times), we let go because we considered it necessary. As our agent told us, the minute we knocked on the publisher's door, The Pecking Order became not about us, but about the publishers, not about art, but about money. And who doesn't like a little money?

Fast forward a year - give or take - and Laura and I found ourselves on one of our lovely and too infrequent writing retreats. If you're thinking Walden Pond or the English countryside circa Jane Austen, try a roadside Ramada a stone's throw from I-5. (Did I mention the money for art thing hasn't quite yet come to fruition?) Still, there was WiFi in the room, Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar almonds (do yourself a favor and buy them), and perfect company. And in pursuit of this new project, we returned to what we knew, back when we were baby authors, full of hope and promise and high class problems like thinking we needed a nome de plume to hide our identity from the firm. We opened "Ancient Pecking Order" and, over the course of the evening, fell back in love with those deleted scenes, lost characters, and quirky turns of phrase. We remembered their humor, their beauty, their divine flaws. We remembered how and why we wrote them in the first place. So much so they have found their way - quite easily and fittingly - into our new work. And, this time, writing soul or genius in the corner or creative fairy or whoever you are, this time, we promise, we're listening.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Art and the Divine

One of the pastors at my church has this running joke about how he can't make it through a sermon without mentioning C.S. Lewis. One of the other pastors has the same running joke, but about Bono. (Yea, in case you were wondering, my church is kind of really totally awesome. A few weeks ago, we thanked God for beer. ) Here's my bit--I have a hard time writing a blog post without gushing about Elizabeth Gilbert. She's just so . . . present and real and self-deprecating and witty and brilliant and radiant and whole. And she's a damn good speaker, too. If you haven't seen her speech about the role of the divine in the creative process, I implore you to take a break and watch this. It's not just for writers, but for anyone engaged in any act of creativity, be it modeling or singing or sewing or lunch packing or lego building. So, yes, it's for all of us.
Happy Weekend! May the genius find you (watch the clip . . . you'll get it)!