Composting

James Garside

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My writing and highlighting process
“Do not wait for “mystery” to descend: take care of business. If you take care of business, the creative impulse has a vehicle through which it may act.”

Don’t wait for things to get easier — take care of business.

As a writer, you’re still just shovelling shit.

When you’ve enough shit, you can turn it into compost.

Compost feeds the fertile ground — it’s worthless in its own right, but without it nothing grows as well.

Compost your writing

  • Gather up all your loose scraps of writing
  • Highlight any good bits that grab your attention
  • Cluster (brainstorm) these bits to break the silence (on paper)
  • Then kickwrite / freewrite (on paper / computer, whatever your preferred method is)
  • Repeat until you’ve ‘used up’ anything noteworthy in your compost
  • Printout your ‘green shoots’ (the new pages you produced from your shit-pile)
  • Highlight in the margins paragraphs that are ideas / projects, good writing/ on-story / bits of novels, rants or even just self-pitying shite (poetry)
  • Repeat the process for a set period of time (days, weeks, months) until have a lot of material
  • Separate the good stuff out into pots (different novels, stories, poems etc)
  • Turn ideas and practical stuff into GTD-type projects or add to your lists as placeholders for stories
  • Rake over the rest as compost, let go of anything that is truly lifeless (has nothing left in it of value)
  • Take all the good proper writing stuff that is on one project (eg. one story) and try and kickwrite it up into scenes and a working draft
  • Compost any leftover material
  • Rinse and repeat

Cluster and Write, Cluster and Write

A brilliant technique is to brainstorm or cluster and then write.

Clustering is basically a brainstorming technique for writers.

You do it just to get your brain working and keep your hands connected to your thoughts.

Keep the lines of communication open.

For information check out ‘Writing the Natural Way’ by Gabriele Rico and any of the books on brainstorming by Tony Buzan.

Juggle your writing projects

It takes as much energy to write one novel as it does to write two.

Have another project to work on alongside your main project.

Something that is the total opposite of what you are writing and taking seriously.

Something fun and insane and that you don’t have to worry about whether it is good or not.

When you are sick of one, write the other.

This is how you rest — not stopping altogether.

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NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author and travel writer.

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