Writing Tip: From Trash To Treasure

Photo 9When we move or spring clean, how many times have we sorted through our belongings to find things we consider insignificant or trash but then someone else finds value in it after buying it at a garage sale or picking it up from your garbage pile? An old rickety chair can be restored with a little tender loving care. A discolored vase can turn out to be an antique worth a lot. It can be the same with writing.

I can’t tell you how many notebooks I have with unfinished stories and poems I don’t think are worth sharing. I never discard anything I write because I feel that something good could come from it later on. I could be inspired to revise my stories or take a snippet from a poem and make something fresh and new.

Those five to ten minute free writing exercises can be gibberish to some, but I find them exhilarating; a way to get a lot of emotions onto paper that we don’t often find the time to release. By reviewing them a few days or even a few weeks later, one can possibly find inspiration to construct a poem or expand on the idea written.

Natalie Goldberg calls this concept “composting.” In her book Writing Down the Bones, she explains:

Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil. (15)

What we write is like tending a garden. We bury the seeds in soil, water and fertilize them hoping that something sprouts. We want our harvest to be edible for hungry minds but we also throw out the rotten fruit left to decay on the ground.  The writing we may think is garbage could be the words someone else needs to hear.

So go ahead and share that poem you think might not be appealing. Share that story you may consider nonsense. But never throw out anything you write, because your trash could be another’s treasure.



Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Boston: Shambhala, 2005. Print

Written by: Donna J. Sanders

Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia – a poetry collection about the struggles we face, the state of the world and how to see beauty in the simplest things.

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Photo Credit: © Donna J. Sanders

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  1. Writing Tip: From Trash To Treasure | TheRaven6825

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