There’s a 13th century tile fragment displayed on the wall of St. Edward’s Church in the Cotswold village of Stow-on-the-Wold, England. It’s shaped a little like the Superman logo and shows two birds standing face to face. (Or beak to beak, I suppose.) It’s pretty clear there’s a lot of original image we don’t see. Maybe the missing pieces are still hiding beneath the church floor. Or maybe by now they are unrecoverable dust.
So often the writing process feels like that piece of tile to me. We begin with a single jagged fragment – maybe little else. And as we sort through words and ideas, we have to believe the missing pieces are waiting to be discovered.
Too Many Tomatoes is an example of that unearthing of pieces. When I began that picture book story (what I first thought was only going to be a short poem), I had no clue how important the theme of sharing would become.
One for the teacher,
and one for the tailor.
One for the scientist.
One for the sailor.
One for the painter,
and one for the plumber.
One for the dancer,
and one for the drummer.
Without that theme, the story never would have worked as well as it does. But that theme wasn’t planned. It felt revealed. Likewise, I had no idea the theme of reading and of reading for knowledge would be so important in Paulina and the Pirate’s Hat until I was deep into the story.
I’m only a little polish away from submitting a new picture book manuscript, and, once again, time with the story exposed a wonderfully surprising layer I didn’t anticipate. Yup, the writing process seems more a matter of discovery than of creativity.
Tell me about your writing experiences. Have you ever felt a bit like an archaeologist, carefully sweeping away sediment to uncover the missing pieces you never expected to find?