Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Joys of Recycling

Under the influence of my sweetie and Creative Collage Techniques (by Nita Leland and Virginia Lee Williams, North Light Books, 1994), I found the joys of artistic planetary stewardship at a time when my writing was suffering. For me, at least, artwork uses a different part of the brain.

We lived in Dorchester, MA. Trash day was on Thursdays; on Wednesday nights I combed the neighborhood curbsides. We outfitted our unfurnished apartment with other people's trash, but we also saved books, wood, glass, and all manner of other "junk" from going into the landfill. On my way to the subway for my commute I'd pick up broken mirror pieces, pigeon feathers, and whatever else the street offered that I thought I could use. We lived a mile from Dorchester Bay, which became a treasure trove at low tide.

When I write fiction I sit at my computer for hours at a stretch. It wasn't the easiest thing to do when I had a commute of at least an hour each way, work days that often floated into the night, and freelance jobs waiting at home. On the other hand, putting together my brand of mixed media art required many steps where I didn't have to think. If I had 5 minutes before I had to leave for work I could slap on a coat of gloss medium and wash out my brush before throwing on my jacket. I could rip up discarded office paper while on the phone.

My sweetie had introduced me to trash picking -- what she calls "neighborhood beautification" -- not for purposes of art but because she didn't want to see battery acid and anything leached from lead wheel weights spilling into the aquifer. She keeps an eye out for all the cans, bottles, and other detritus folks leave behind, collects them in plastic bags (which she usually also finds on the street), and washes them for the recycle bins. Nowadays she makes sure the soda cans are free of fire ants: one significant difference between Massachusetts and Florida.

I picked up the habit purely for play. The artwork saved my sanity when my writing was confined mainly to corporate fare.

Still, that drier material had (and continues to have) its own good influence on the writing I prefer to do. I mailed my synopsis and 3 sample chapters off this morning in my attempt to find an agent. In creating the synopsis, a condensed but punched-up novel in miniature, I used many of the same skills that figure in writing articles and press releases. Nothing is wasted -- even during my creatively dry years my work and frustrations were helping me -- sneakily, through the back door, when I wasn't looking. Recycling indeed comes in all forms.


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