Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tools of the Trade, or The Refuse Bin

Scott D. Parker

I am always fascinated by the tools people use to do their jobs. In one of the more interesting perks about my day job as a technical writer for an oil and gas client, I get to learn about the tools and technology they use to find and retrieve various petroleum products. My wife is a silversmith and jewelry artist and I’m always asking her what the various little tools she has and what they do. Some are obvious, some are not, and I enjoy learning.
My father is a woodworker. His dad was a professional carpenter. Sadly, the gene that impels a person to want to work with wood skipped me. I thoroughly enjoy the various projects I do with my dad—last’s year’s deck on our patio, the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall bookcases in my living room—and sometimes wish I had said missing gene. So it is with joy whenever a project comes up that we need to complete.
The latest one is a little shadow box, two actually, for my son’s class. My wife’s idea, it’s a 14 x 18-in. box about 2 in. deep. The girls in the class get to decorate one and the boys the other with the ultimate goal of both being available for the auction gala later this spring.
Last weekend, my boy and I went to my dad’s woodshop and spent the day building these boxes. We planned, we measured, we cut, we primed, and, finally, we put all the pieces together. Along the way, we nipped and tucked some of the wood, forced it into a certain shape, had to recut a couple of pieces, and realized a mistake we made along the way. The mistake was fixed and we have our boxes. In fact, we were so productive that we made three additional ones and the three members of my family all get one to decorate.
I know you know the obvious metaphor I’m using here: tools for woodworking and tools for writing, each set helping the crafter make a final product. That’s true, but I’m going to go somewhere slightly different.
The pieces of the shadow box were relatively small. The largest piece was the thin backing. When you go to the hardware store, you buy long boards and cut them down to the size. For every cut we made, I watched as my dad handed me the piece we wanted and stored away the remainder to be available for a future project. You just never know what you might need.
It was this action that reminded me of writing. I don’t know about y’all but I keep just about everything I write. On the computer, it’s really simple. I keep snippets, vignettes, and scraps in my documents folder. I also use the SimpleNotes app on my iPad/Pod so I can access on the go. On the paper side, I keep all my Moleskine notebooks and other comp books. Heck, I keep a spiral notebook in my car and jot down things while driving…or at a stop light. Occasionally, I’ll go through them all just seeing what I once wrote on one day. And, every now and then, I get re-inspired and continue something old and make it new again.
Do you keep all of your little tidbit writings? How do you store them? And do you ever go back and re-read or re-use them?

Album of the Week: Vijay Iyer Trio – Accelerando

Taking an echo of the time signature quirks of Dave Brubeck, Iyer’s piano trio (Iyer, piano; Stephen Crump, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums) offers some incredibly dense but aural rewarding jazz pieces. After years of having music “just on” in the background, I am moving back to where music used to be: you sit and listen and absorb. Accelerando is an album that rewards the listener who listens with concentration and attention. The notes on the album don’t change each time I play it, but the things I take away from each session are often different.

1 comment:

Dana King said...

I keep everything. I dont go back to use bits as often as I think i will when I save them, but I do peruse old stuff once in a while. I plan to go through a set aside novel later this year to find things worth keeping.

Where? On the hard drive. Period. On the rare occasions I write an idea down, I type it up as soon as I decide it's worth keeping. If not for computers, I wouldn't even have thought to be a writer. I'm not organized or disciplined enough t keep scraps of paper and to have to re-type draft after draft.