Recently, I read and reviewed Molly Peacock’s book, Alphabetique. Now, Random House of Canada has provided me with the opportunity for a guest post with Molly Peacock about her creative process. Enjoy getting to know a little bit more about Ms. Peacock, whose name is as colourful as her book!
What is Molly Peacock’s creative process?
Well, I have a lot of creative processes, because I practice several arts. Poetry I write by hand in my bathrobe, usually on Saturday mornings. Decades ago, when I was a teacher, I developed a habit of writing on my only free morning. On Friday nights, I’d shop for groceries and vacuum, and tell my boyfriend he couldn’t stay overnight. I had to have everything, even him, out of the way for the blank page on Saturday. During the weekI’d keep the poem in my handbag and work on it in spare moments during the week—at the dentist’s, in the school cafeteria, on the bus.
But you can’t write a big nonfiction book this way. Prose I write directly at a computer—sometimes using Dragon Dictate to save my shoulders and hands—and always in the morning. I have to get to a desk first thing, when my energy is fresh. I’ve got enough in me to get from 8 am till about noon or 1pm with plenty of breaks for tea, yoga stretches, snacks, water, my husband, my cat, my balcony garden—but, if I can help it, NOT email. (Or only in my breaks, if I have to.) By noon or 1pm, I’m wasted. Time for lunch, a shower, the gym! My desk? It’s my grandmother’s dining room table.
But my process for Alphabetique spun off differently, and, really, it began in my childhood.
When I was four or five years old, my grandmother sent me a letter. My mother read the letter to me, and at the end it said, “Please write back.” I wanted to do that, but I didn’t know how to write. My mother, who was busy reading a book, took a pad, wrote the alphabet on the top, and said to copy the letters that she dictated. And so I began, struggling with the D she pointed out for Dear. When I started Alphabetique, I wasn’t thinking about doing an abecedarium. I had made up a character in a story-poem, and I called him C. The minute I called him C, he began to have the characteristics of that letter. He put his arm around his girlfriend. He was a harbor a ship could sail into. The letter literally determined his character. I was writing a biography at the time, The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72. Biographies require research and a commitment to what really happened, but I wanted to have a place for my imagination to roam, so one day I took a break and wrote S. The 18th-century English artist Hogarth thought that the S-curve was the most aesthetic shape an artist could draw. In fact, I wrote the story of S first as a free-verse poem, and published it that way. It was only as these pieces began to accumulate that I thought I could make them into stories and put them together.