Friday, January 31, 2014

A Tasty Writing Tip from Madeleine L' Engle



Dear Friend,

In Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L' Engle likened her process for writing books to cooking a meal like a French peasant cook:
When I start working on a book, which is usually several years and several books before I start to write it, I am somewhat like a French peasant cook. There are several pots on the back of the stove, and as I go by doing the day's work, I drop a carrot in one, an onion in another, a chunk of meat in another. When it comes time to prepare the meal, I take the pot which is most nearly full and bring it to the front of the stove.

So it is with writing. There are several pots on those back burners. An idea for a scene goes into one, a character into another. When it comes time to write, I bring forward the pot that has the most is it. The dropping in of ideas is something quite conscious; sometimes it happens without my realizing it. I look, and something has been added which is just what I need, but I don't remember when it was added.

When it is time to start work, I look at everything in the pot, sort, arrange, think about character and story line. Most of this part of the work is done consciously, but then there comes a moment of unself-consciousness, of letting go and serving the work.

Madeline L'Engle wrote from home as she raised four children. I love it when I find a great writer whose life experience is a bit like my own. Everyday I cook for my family of seven, so this meal-making analogy is something that speaks to me: Add a bit of something here; shake a dash of something there. I have four book ideas on my mental stove right now. They might need to simmer for ten, fifteen, twenty years.






Perhaps, like me, you feel you have very little time to devote to your long term dreams. Would it help to dig out some nice heavy stock pots and place them on your mental stove?

Can you drizzle a little oil in and saute an onion today?

Some day we will say "Bon Appetit!"

Love,
Adriana

P.S. My friend Krista Bjorn is experiencing the fruition of some lifelong dreams right now: a book deal, her own store, and a secret garden! Read about it here.

8 comments:

  1. I love this, dear friend. :-) So, so good. I don't have children occupying my time, but I have animals, gardens, farm, hubby, and three other jobs. :-) This is how I write too! A bit here, a bit there, ideas coming as I pull weeds and herd animals and make dinner. I'm so glad we don't have to be speedy at these things, that it's OK to take a long time while we maintain all the other good things in our lives. :-) XO I'd love to hear your book ideas. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Krista. Sometimes I think of physical labor and the "deep play" of creative pursuits as the warp and weft of life. It's all good! We need an equal portion of both. Love & blessings! ♥

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  2. I really love L'Engle's analogy here. In terms of actual writing projects I have two currently "simmering": one's a big pot and one's quite small. The big one's on the back burner right now and I'm experimenting with the smaller one: adding stuff and taking stuff away (and there the analogy breaks down b/c you can't remove ingredients once they're added!).

    Thanks for sharing Krista's link too. Both of your posts have left me feeling EXTREMELY HUNGRY!

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    1. I'm glad you visited Krista's blog, Jeannie! It's fun to share the goodness of life with friends. I'm happy to know you have some things simmering -- I'm sure they'll be positively delectable! :-)

      P.S. Nice point about how the analogy breaks down. Trimming is an important step in the writing process.

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  3. hmm very interesting, but i cannot relate( i dont like cooking). But the simmering part i get. I have a special term for that incubation period.(my dad and brother raise chickens)

    You cook for seven people that means seven plates to wash! haha :)

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    1. My family raised chickens when I was growing up, so I totally get the incubation analogy! Very appropriate!

      And yes, I do have seven plates to wash after each meal (among other dishes), but lately I've been teaching my oldest two kids how to properly clean the kitchen after meals. I'm curious -- What chores are you responsible for in your home?

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    2. Your question made me realized im lazy. *blush* i have 3 siblings so we share chores. Here in the phil we have a sugo system. Meaning the eldest has the most previlege, you can command younger siblings to do chores for u. Im the eldest. So. The youngest take commands from those who are older than him. But not to worry because usually the youngest is the most loved among siblings by all family members. I am very fond of my younger brother. As to chores, i usually wash plates and go to the market.

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  4. Great write-up! Writing is a talent, and it must not be wasted. As with everything that we had been entrusted, we should let it grow and share it with the world.> how do you motivate yourself

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Blessings,

Adriana