March 6, 2013

IWSG re-do - writing and composting

what better way to recycle a blog from 2011 post than to talk about composting...

and not to be insulting, but just in case you don't know what composting is, here's a quick explanation:

Composting involves mixing yard and household organic waste in a pile or bin and providing conditions that encourage decomposition. The decomposition process is fueled by millions of microscopic organisms (bacteria, fungi) that take up residence inside your compost pile, continuously devouring and recycling it to produce a rich organic fertilizer and valuable soil amendment.

now you may be asking, "what the heck does composting have to do with writing, and why would she bring it up for her insecure writers post?"

it goes back to a blog post i read over at Shrinking Violet Promotions a few months ago on writing and bread. it was a brilliant post on how we each have to find our own way to write and how it's like making bread. but at the end she mentioned finding your own analogy and she suggested composting. and that got me thinking about all the words we write and how many of those are garbage, and how many are brilliant and still get chopped from our stories.

i'm not the first writer to compare writing to composting. Natalie Goldberg does it in her book Writing Down the Bones. yet, while she uses the analogy of how we can use the compost heaps of our lives for our writing, i'm suggesting that a lot of the writing we do can be used in the compost heap (which is not to say that every word we write is garbage, but even a large part of the brilliant ones have to be tossed out for the sake of honing the story).

i used to think that every word i chopped from my story was wasted. that led me to think that i had to write a brilliant story the first time around. i've found that my expectation was impossible. it paralyzes me so i don't write at all. but when i rolled this analogy around in my head, it made any writing i do seem important. the words i write today may not get used at all, but i can add them to the heap of other words i've written, good and bad, and that becomes the fertilizer and soil amendment out of which my real story can grow.

so my word to my fellow insecure writers - write. keep writing. every word you write, whether it's for your current novel or not, will add to the richness of your story. every word you chop from your novel will be a word that helped you discover what your story wasn't about so you could write what it was about.
and for those of you wondering how my sequel is going, let's just say i'm doing A LOT of composting. but good things are growing from the midst of the old stuff.


J M Filipowicz said...

I have lots of files of copy and pasted junk. I totally get the feeling of wanting to get it right the first time so you don't waste words.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

But something great will grow out of that compost!
I think of it as wood carving. We start with the basic shape of what we want and then carve away all the crap.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Love your post. I've read Goldberg's book and agreed with her comments on composting. Yours is new to me, even though I realize now I've been doing what you've pointed out. While I cut liberally, I save all my cuts and find that I can sometimes use them in shorts or other manuscripts. Guess that's a form of composting, huh. Good writing to you!

Hart Johnson said...

You know... I started writing down snippets and ideas a while back that I thought would make good books... and not all of them were book WORTHY... but as I started on the one I'm writing now, I went through my file and have recycled TWO ideas that were meant to be whole books and put them into characters for this one... that is three separate strands all coming together to grow my new book... and if feels pretty good this way.

Carissa Taylor said...

I totally agree!! I have a document for each WIP where I save all those words. Just in case.

I've actually gone back and used phrases here and there. And the ones that never see the light of day? Well they were good learning experiences =D

stu said...

Certainly, my own creative process seems to involve large amounts of deletion, with good ideas only emerging over time.

Donna Hole said...

As a person who has to overwrite to get to the point of something, I identify with the compost heap. Sometimes you just have to vomit it all out there and later determine what is usable, and what just sparked ideas for something else.

No words are wasted in my opinion. They all serve a purpose, even if a small one.


Nicki Elson said...

Oh yes, I like this analogy -- those chopped out words weren't wasted at all!

Jackee said...

Lovely thoughts! I used to think writing cut in the rewrite was wasted too, but this last book I'm surprised what a better first draft it is than previous ones. I'm learning and improving! All those bad words are paying off.