Monday, May 30, 2011

What's in your compost pile?

"The people I have known, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have ever read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap, where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rich, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable. Other people call it the imagination. I think of it as a compost heap. Every so often I take an idea, plant it in the compost, and wait. It feeds on that black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates. Takes root. Produces shoots, until one fine day I have a story or a novel."  ~Diane  Setterfield in The Thirteenth Tale.

I absolutely love this analogy. I have actually heard it before from a writing teacher. She told us that all the hurt, heartache, misery and difficulty we go through is really pure gold. It's what we use to create story. It's what we dig through to make our readers laugh, cry, or feel any other emotion we want to illicit.

Use your compost pile every chance you get. Let it live up to its potential. I used to feel like I was getting too old to be starting a new career, a new hobby, a new love, but writing fulfills me. Sometimes I think I should have started this venture a long time ago. Just think how good I'd be if I had. But then I remember one thing. It takes time for a compost pile to ferment. It takes days, weeks, and yes, even years to write the good stuff. Let it roll, folks. Don't be in such a hurry. Your day is coming. Let those yeasty, smelly, moldy goodies grow until you really need them. Then take them out, mold them, shape them, and watch them multiply!

12 comments:

Carrie Dair said...

So true! What a great analogy. And I totally agree. Sometimes I look around at my fellow classmates and sigh, thinking that I could already be done with all the classroom study. Then someone asks me a question about life to which I actually have the answer and I smile. I know things. Just not the ones that have earned me a degree...yet.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Never thought of it that way. Guess my mostly normal and non-traumatic life works against me, huh?

James Garcia Jr said...

Hello, Melissa. Interesting idea. I had never really heard of this before, but I suppose it is very true.
Thanks for the post. I hope you've had a very nice weekend. Have a good week.

-Jimmy

Jolene Perry said...

I am so glad you posted this. I forget how much life experience helps me in my writing.

Chuck said...

That is very true...guess I should stop wandering around in my compost feet in barefeet, huh. Thanks Melissa!

Rob-bear said...

Tis true. One's life experiences and writing history are the material from which one grows a book. That, and good research, and paying attention to details.

Good luck, writers!

Nina Powers said...

What a wonderful way to look at life experiences! It's a sure sign that, as writers, we need to take a break from writing sometimes, to go and live experiences to add to the compost pile.
Thank you for sharing this!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

When I was a teenager I was in a hurry to get my work published; I had this goal of getting my first story published by the time I graduated from college. But now when I look back on the stuff that I wrote ten years ago, I'm glad that it wasn't published; my experiences (i.e., my compost pile) had definitely changed my perspective of what I'd written as well as of writing in general. I think I needed to do some more growing up before sending out those stories.

Nicole Mc said...

Just want to say...I loved The Thirteenth Tale!!! So hauntingly beautiful!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Interesting concept. I do believe my compost pile should be beyond ripe and smelly by now. Time to put it to good use!

kathy stemke said...

Great analogy. The key is never give up.

My first picture book is on Amazon and I'm writing my first historical fiction.

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