Sunday, March 11, 2007

Writing With A Partner

I enjoyed The Nanny Diaries, which was authored by two gals who share equal billing. I also love Em&Lo, another two-headed monster who helmed an advice column on Nerve and now write books together. But separate from my enjoying their work, I always wondered: how on earthdo they do that? How does it work? Does one write a version and the other revise? Did they sit together and talk about what they were about to put on the page? Which one types? Who wins they really both thought they had le mot juste? Is once-twice-three-shoot involved, or is agreement achieved through discussion and synthesis? I read an article in the New Yorker about a couple who study the brain together and, after years of this, they barely know who comes up with what. That's either deeply cool or deeply weird. Or both.

When I had The Best Job Ever (a.k.a.TBJE), we'd sometimes do these 30-relaxing-rituals or 40-snappy-pickup-line-comebacks or 50-sexy-whisperables articles. Rather than toiling in isolation, we all soon learned that the best way to get one of these babies done was to run down to Duane Reade, pick up a couple bags of fun-sized Twix, and throw an idea-party. It was oodles more fun to have a writer's room, Sid Caesar-style, with ideas popping off like fireworks over our heads. Writing by committee: I yearn for it daily, even as I churn out freelance artciles in my wee home-based office.

But while toiling away for The Man might be possible on my own, writing comedy is more of a group effort. It has to be. I don't know, maybe Dane Cook sits by himself while writing his jokes…. Aaah, who am I kidding, Dane Cook doesn't write his own jokes. Anyway, I just find that sketch writing, joke writing, gag writing – that all works best if I have a buddy.

This is all on my mind (MY mind! MINE!) because I've been writing with a partner lately, and I love it sooo much. I wish he could write everything with me. Seriously. Instead of feeling stuck, and going on the Google to get unstuck, and ending up reading "Go Fug Yourself" for an hour while nothing got done, I just said, "Wait, what goes here?" and he made suggestions till he hit something we both liked, or till he fired off something in my head that made me say the right thing. It was like living in a TV show about a couple writing sketches: "No, play to the top of your intelligence," he said – seriously! He said that! – and suddenly the sketch pulled together in a neat little bundle, like a comedic tamale.

Weirdly, though, it's been hard letting him into bigger projects. Sketches are one thing, but we're working on a Big Secret Thing at the moment, and it's become really important to me that I get a rough draft on paper before I bring him in for consultation. It's weird, because I've been stuck for days on the first section – oh, who am I kidding, the first paragraph – and have had ample opportunity to ask him to pace around making suggestions while I hunch overy my keyboard and type. Do I feel like I have to own the process? Is this me asserting control, or demanding a neurotic amount of it? Is this feminist empowerment or just plain selfishness? I dunno, but it's nice to have something feel new again. Me and writing were in a rut for a while. I feel like we're coming back together again, like any long-standing couple.

My job. I think I'll keep it.

No comments: