How to make Writer’s Compost?
Write continuously in a journal every day and anywhere.
I constantly write descriptions of places I find myself in including the noises and feelings I have when I am silent. I love capturing the snippets of dialogue I hear too. Although some can be alarming if you don’t know the context from which they are spoken. I kid you not, but I’ve heard and seen crazy stuff on buses.
Three years ago when I travelled on a bus to visit someone at hospital, I heard two teenage girls share their phone with a random guy . He said his phone was out of battery. He wanted to ring his mate so he could meet him at the bus top. In his conversation to his mate he asked if his weed stash was ready! At first, I thought he was joking and perhaps he was but when he got off, I made sure the girl’s blocked the phone number he dialled and to contact the police. I was shocked at the time but later realised what a great beginning to a plot it was.
Take a leaf from Earnest Hemingway’s book of writing practice. He was a great believer of the ‘steal and collect great lines from anywhere’. Nothing is ever original.
After reading anything or seeing a movie or even the news I capture the lines and the emotions of the people involved as well as my own. The news stories especially from around the world can feel more unbelievable than movies.
When I’m feeling a writing block coming on or am distracted, I rewrite purposes for daily objects, like the seagull Scuttle did in Disney’s Ariel where he describes a fork as a “dinglehopper”. I have repurposed my vintage telephone to be a shower head in one of my piles of compost.
Compost all this writing in your journals. I have columns of writing journals dating from 1991!
How does the compost help you with your writing block?
Well, when you are in the throes of writing, your mind expertly rummages through the pile of dribble and rubbish you have written in your compost and hey presto a real quality piece emerges from nowhere.
If your automated mind doesn’t do this which mine sometimes doesn’t, I then physically rummage through my journal compost and find the nuggets.
The magic and beauty of your Compost
- Imagine you are in a happy mood and you are feeling love for everything. However, you discover you are meant to be writing about the inner thinking of your villain! Fear not! This is when the magic of your compost works best. This is when your subconscious automation or your digging through your journals helps you retrieve the gems of melancholy or anything you have heard, seen and read before.
- My compost allows me to often write about things I don’t come across in my own life.
- For example, a radio news bulletin about a murderer masquerading as a taxi driver whilst I was actually taking a taxi ride to the same spot where he murdered his latest victim, presented me with the first few chapters of River Rule. I still get tingles about that.
- I’ve used the decomposed mixture of teenage angst from my earlier teenage and early twenties writings and from the letters my friends at the time sent to me. Thus, giving authenticity to Una and Avi’s emotions and angst.
- Remember composting works even if you haven’t written a journal.
- You see, our overactive sensory organs are continuously dumping a load of information into our sub consciousness. During our daily writing practice our creative mind often shifts through this resource. And BAM! From nowhere meaty plots, characters and rich dialogue write themselves.
Earnest Hemingway must have used his compost heap when he wrote about Michigan while sitting in a cafe in Paris.
This very sort of composting first brought River Rule alive when I instinctively drew a scene on the whiteboard to demonstrate how drawings can help write a climax. I was shocked that I had drawn a bridge and landscape I had seen thirty years ago. A month later the climax resurfaced whilst I was sitting at my dining table in the outskirts of London.
Alas! Today the jungle in the River Rule series is no more and a housing estate has been built where it stood. The jungle and the tribesmen sadly only exists in my books and on my compost heap.
So, on that very note before I pen off, I urge you to keep places like that alive and pick your pen or keyboard up and GET COMPOSTING!