Sep 28

Environmentally Unconscious — Recycling Words

WHAT’S PLAYING:  Susan Enan feat. Sarah McLachlan “Bring on the Wonder”

I am a consumer. I love my Keurig coffee maker, bottled water, and gas guzzling muscle cars. On top of that, I don’t recycle and the closest I’ve ever come to gardening is the produce section at my local grocery store.

The odd thing is that most of my friends, if not all of them, are environmentally conscious. One couple even decided to experiment with raising goats for lawn maintenance. (That’s right. They prefer to use smelly, ornery creatures that  require constant care, instead of a lawnmower that can be neatly parked in the garage and forgotten about after use.) Another friend spent the last two years traveling to some of the most exotic spots in the world including BaliThailand, India, and Peru, where she spent most of her time immersing herself in different cultures and communing with Mother Nature. (Personally, I do my best communing from the comfort of my temperature-controlled, bug-free apartment.) To their credit, aside from the occasional reproachful look when they see me drinking bottled water, my friends tolerate my consumerism with good-natured resignation.

My friends will be happy to know, however, that I have recently started to recycle, though not in a way that will benefit Mother Earth.

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings”.  And William Faulkner repeated this sentiment in his more often cited quote “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”

These quotes refer to the fine art of revision. Of taking the manuscript you’ve sweated and bled over for months if not years, and systematically removing every word, phrase, character or scene that doesn’t belong. It doesn’t matter how clever it is or how beautifully worded. If it doesn’t serve the story, out it goes, ostensibly never to be heard from again.

Personally, I’m against murder, especially when I’ve put so much effort into the process. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ruthless when it comes to cutting, but I like to think of it as putting my “darlings” in a coma. I’ve come far enough in my writing journey to realize that not everything belongs in a story. Some phrases, characters, scenes, etc. are meant just for me. They exist only to make me a better writer. These are my darlings, and I let them sleep in a special file, only to resuscitate them later in a different story. A sort of Writing Protection Program, if you will.

I’m not saying that every word I write will end up in print someday, but when I find myself searching for a particular image or turn of phrase, I’ll know where to find it.

And it won’t be in the graveyard.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2011/09/reduce-reuse-recycle/


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  1. Lincoln

    Small world, I just recently reread Helene Hanff’s, memoirs 84 Charing Cross Road and Q’s Legacy. Both about as lifelong love affair with books and how she used Sir Q’s writings to educate herself.

    I love these books, and the movie based on the first!

    1. justjacqui2

      That’s one of my favorite movies! Anne Bancroft was superb in it. As for Sir Q, I became a fan of his from the moment I picked up Sir John Constantine: “My father, Sir John Constantine of Constantine, in the country of Cornwall, was a gentleman of ample but impoverished estates, who by renouncing the world had come to be pretty generally reputed a madman. This did not affect him one jot, since he held precisely the same opinion of his neighbors — with whom, moreover, he continued on excellent terms.”

      With those two very long sentences, he found his way right into this hermit’s heart.

  2. Lincoln

    Aaand I just re-read Q’s Legacy and it is only in the first part where she talks about him, the rest is all her memoir about her love affair with writing and books. And England.

  3. Melissa

    You should at least recycle your bottled water.

    1. justjacqui2

      Sorry. But if it makes you feel better, I do reuse them. I’m pretty sure my PUR water filter is the most environmentally friendly thing in my house. Well, that and my hair dryer, which I don’t have time to use.

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