Saturday, June 25, 2011

Going Green With Your Writing

Scott D. Parker

Every other week, along with the garbage, the recycle truck arrives on our street to haul away the stuff that can be used again. For fourteen days, my family separates the actual trash from the “trash” that can be recycled. To make it easy on ourselves, we have a bin in my utility room that all cardboard, glass, and plastic (save #6—why that one?) live in until I carry the inside bin out to the giant, green, rolling recycle “can.” The best thing about the city of Houston’s recycle program is that they don’t require you to sort anything. Throw it all in and they’ll sort it later. Makes recycling extremely easy and a no brainer.

I usually have to empty the inside bin at least twice over the two-week span between recycling pickups. When I do, I always make sure to examine all the questionable plastic, the ones that just might be #6s. As a result, I see all the boxes, cartons, bottles, etc. that we’ve been consuming. There’s the pizza box from movie night, there’s the cans of the sweet elixir that is Dr. Pepper sweetened with sugar (not corn syrup), there’s the empty cartons of Greek yogurt, truly a better choice over standard yogurt. I’m not that weird to say that I sometimes chuckle at a memory associated with an empty something. Wait. Am I? Yeah, probably.

I’ve been recycling some of my old writing, too. (Come on. You didn’t think this was merely a plea for all y’all to recycle, did you?) My current book features the same character, HPD Detective Anne Chambers, that appears as my entry in Do Some Damage’s current anthology, Collateral Damage. I’ve written about her before, but shelved the unfinished manuscript in favor of another story.

As I’ve been clipping along with the new book, I arrived at a scene that felt familiar. It didn’t take me long to remember that I had Anne conduct an investigation that involved an apartment. Hey, thought I earlier this week during one of my morning writing sessions, I wonder if there is anything I could use from that apartment scene here in the new book? So, yes, I stopped writing (breaking cardinal rule #1) in order to re-read that one chapter.

I ended up reading my entire manuscript—all 140 pages, 35,000 words of it. And I discover that the manuscript that I’d abandoned fearing that it went nowhere actually had more than one good scene I could recycle. In fact, a nip here and a tuck there and I should be able to use large chunks of that older work here in this newer work.

I’m obsessive about saving everything I write. Only recently have I slowly started not saving every, single iteration of every, single story. I don’t know why I do that. Guess I want the progress. The good thing, of course, about saving every little tidbit is that my future self might be able to use it. I did the work, even if it was a year ago. No reason why I can’t put those words to good use.

The irony is this: the new draft is written in third person. The older material is in first. Plus the tone is different. But that’s for another post.

Do y’all save everything, thinking you might get back to it one day? And do you?

Album of the Week: Peacemaker by Clarence Clemons. Most should know I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. Jay wrote about his love for the Boss on Tuesday. As a sax player, Mr. Clemons had a tone I envied. When Bruce’s music called for an old-school sax solo (a la “Born to Run”), the Big Man delivered in spades. But, to me, Clemons really shined with the slower pieces. Just as David Gilmour can “say” more with a single extended, held note than other guitarists can with fanatical fretwork, Clemons’s sound was luxurious and full. I’ll even namedrop Miles Davis in this discussion because Clemons knew the value of silence in his music. For you Springsteen fans out there, I’m talking “Jungleland,” “Secret Garden,” “Back in Your Arms Again,” among others.

This 1995 album is a slow, peaceful, meditative offering. At its base, Clemons is merely soloing over soft percussion, mostly non-western in origin. This is night music, the kind free from worry and other noises, the kind that can mingle in the shadows of your house or apartment and breathe life into the mysterious places in your soul. In the spirit of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, this album is Clemons’s thank you to God for bestowing upon him the talent to play sax. I listened to it in a Barnes and Noble sixteen years ago and immediately bought it. Now, it is one of my Top 10 desert island CDs. That is, if I can only choose 10 albums to listen to the rest of my life, this makes the cut. Last weekend, when I learned of Clemons’s death, I put Peacemaker on and drifted to another place.

Here is one cut from Peacemaker: Into the Blue Forest

Secret Garden

Back in Your Arms Again



Sarah Tokeley said...

I save everything, because you just never know...

Dana King said...

I never throw anything away. That might be the best aspect of writing on a computer. A character that didn't go anywhere two (or ten) years ago might be perfectly aligned with where my head is today. I also might have a sticky issue resolved by remembering good old Joe Whatshisname who has a walk-on in an earlier story and would fit perfectly here.

I don't do it often, but sometimes, and it's nice to know those guys are there if I need them.

Going Green said...

I think the best way to go greenis for all environmentalists to lead by example. But so many special interest groups want us to deplete our lifestyles and tell us that if we question the vitality of global warming, that we're heretics. I'm a Democrat, but I have no interest in destroying our already weak economy to be a 'preservationist’. One easy way to "go green" is to switch to organic cotton. Cotton is the world’s second dirtiest crop, and switching to organic would mean saving 456 million lbs of pesticides a year! Very informative post, thanks for sharing this. We all have to save our mother earth!