“For big projects, save scraps others would toss.”
Are you a compost collector or a string saver?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to choose. Each metaphor actually means the same thing–either collecting what others throw away or winding up into a ball what others don’t want. Either way, saving tidbits of banana peel (why is this the first image people see when thinking of compost?) or bits of twine.
Clark uses a filing system. He has a milk crate with a folder in it and a label. He labels the folder, the folder comes to his attention frequently, and he stuffs the folder full. One day, it is full enough that he can write about the idea. He has mulled over the topic enough and gathered enough information and ideas to have something worth writing about.
I am a string-saver although I didn’t know I was one before reading this chapter. I become obsessed with a topic, and then I’ll devout all my time to that topic, learning everything I can about it. I organize it (or not), remember it or write it down, stuff it in a folder, get excited about it, and then forget about it, only to open the folder again, and to remember with glee what I learned once. It’s like visiting old friends or rehashing experiences. It’s great. 🙂
Clark says, “Save, string, gather piles of research, be attentive to when it’s time to write, write earlier than you think you can, let those early drafts drive you to additional research and organization” (216). I don’t it sounds like that long of a process because it is what I do when I write critical essays, but Clark says it is long, so he suggests “grow several crops at the same time.”
Have several folders going at the same time. And then when it is time to write, write.
I actually like this idea because there are some topics I am quite passionate about, but I don’t know what to do with, like abortion, marriage, family, life . . . yet I don’t feel like I am helping any of these passions, helping any people who are in pain from fractured families, so I sit in my college dorm and moan my fate of being a student, stuck in the classroom. Yet maybe I can do something. Maybe I can gather string.
“Right now, buried in routine, you feel you lack the time and energy to undertake enterprising work. Maybe you have a day job but want to research a novel. Perhaps you feel worn out writing many short items every day for a company newsletter. Where will you find the energy to write in-depth” (217)?
So save string. Maybe you’ll end up like Francis Johnson who “created a ball of twine that weighed more than 17,000 pounds, was twelve feet in diameter, and became the main roadside attraction for the town of Darwin, Minnesota” (214).