Friends, Partners, and the Creative Life

What is it about an other that can be so… well, whatever you wouldn’t come up with yourself? When it comes to creativity — making something new whether on canvas, with sound, in writing, or out of clay – most people work alone. It’s a solitary life, the way of an artist, isn’t it?superhero partnerships-istock-000016837868 Then again, maybe not.

When I read Joshua Wolf Shenk’s Atlantic piece about the creative collaboration of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, I admit feeling a mix of envy, nostalgia, and gratitude. What a partnership those guys had! But it’s not easy to come by. Psychologist Susan K. Perry parses the ingredients. Others like Bob Kodzis, who observes the power of difference as well as basic trust, weigh in on how.

Literature and Exile

This morning, I ran across Cristina Peri Rossi’s State of Exile. Or rather, I learned of its existence, of her work, her experience as a woman without country… finding a way to live new. state of exile cover rossiI happened on it through Ginsberg’s Kaddish as published by the wonderful City Lights Books, San Fran in handy pocket size. Rossi’s book is part of that pocket series. To take with you.

Exile. It’s the thrum and back beat of the novel I’m writing, the experience of my protagonist (Cyrus the Great’s aunt Amytis) and of her cultural context — Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. This is the moment, some 2500 years ago, when particular songs, traditions, and stories began to take shape in an organic and dynamic collection that would become the Bible.

A Book, Changed — On Writing

At what point in writing does one book become another? In the editing, rewriting, re-editing and re-rewriting of a project engaged over years, should we just call it a different book? (The shadow question is, of course, at what point does one pack it away, brush off one’s hands, and turn to something else?)

In the book I’m working on now, I have gone from two main characters to one, and she from a spoiled princess to a tomboy with no sense of her worth. I have gone from a many-faceted narrative to a single tale, driven by a young woman’s desire to protect the wild land that she loves.reading-and-writing Suzanne Lilly

Revision as Revelation

It was only when I began revising an essay that I discovered what it was about. I had thought the piece would be a simple meditation on what I’d learned about Cyrus the Great over these past few years – the sexy “messiah” byline, author of the first declaration of human rights, all that… and how my research led to a more complex portrait of the man and his times. And I guess it was, but only secondarily. Primarily, the essay is about change — how, over the years, changes in my Cyrus project have dovetailed with changes in my own life. I wouldn’t have discovered that without going back to the beginning again.reading-and-writing Suzanne Lilly

Writing in a Closet

I have been writing in a closet lately. It’s not that I don’t have another, actually quite wonderful place to work. But that other place is a super old building (tough to say – early to mid 1800’s?) that’s not quite water tight, and it’s been a rainy summer. Besides, the view from there is great – a hummingbird in the echinacea! the mailman! the neighbor is leaving! is arriving! So. I’ve been working in a closet. And I love it.

Grammar wears cut-offs in email

I have sunk low. From the formal correspondence with perfect spacing that I learned to execute back in grade school – letters hand written, of course, in slow loopy cursive – I have adopted a curt and, I’ll admit it, error-filled email style. If there’s a salutation at all, it often runs like a dog from a car parked lakeside straight into the body of the email. Sometimes I dispense with paragraph breaks, making the whole one solid block. And I frequently sign off with nothing more than a “Cheers.”