Do you recyle?
Not bottles or cans, not cardboard or newspapers, magazines or glass. I’m talking about what writer’s throw away in volume- words. Yes, your rough drafts, the ugly drafts, the “who knows what I was going for there” draft. The stories that never got off the ground, the character details that were cut, or those those brilliant scenes that were sacraficed for pacing.
What do you do with your old writing? The writing that doesn’t make the cut? I’m here to advocate that you don’t dump it into the trash, but instead you word compost. Make a file where you keep these things either in a desk drawer or on your computer. Composting is a strange thing. You dump what feels like trash in there- and then magical things can happen. What was trash sometimes becomes something new, something useful. Sometimes those details can be used in a new work or they create a jumping off point for your muse. Sometimes the only purpose is a reminder that you are getting better at this writing thing, but I beg you- don’t just throw it away.
Writers have their own strange rituals. I know people who can’t write until they create a collage, some who have alters to their muse and others who can’t start a project until they have a detailed outline for every chapter. My weird thing is that I can’t really get into a new project until I know the first line. I seem incapable of jumping in and worrying about the first line later. I can spend weeks fretting over how to start the book. Now when the book is all said and done I may still change the first line- but I have to love it when I start. This past week I went through my compost pile and there, buried among the ugly drafts, was a line. Just one line. I changed it around- but the start of it was there.
“Last night I dreamt I dissected Lauren Wood during biology class.”
Now I’m off and running with my next work in progress. Recycling pays off.
What is your strange writer ritual?
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