Monday, 11 March 2013

Ideas Composting by Jane Clarke

Like the best compost, ideas need time to ripen and mature. Here's a quick guide to ideas composting, with thanks to www.recyclenow.com whose tips (in italics) I have stolen and commented on.  The wonderful allotment sketches are from Julia Woolf’s sketchbook.



1. Find the right site.
Choose a place where you can easily add ingredients to the bin and get the compost out.

The type of bin may vary:
The Brain Bin – tends to overflow and can be difficult to access on occasion.
The Computer Bin – ditto.
The Cloud Bin - ditto.
The Notebook Bin –  ditto, and you will need more than one.


2. Add the right ingredients
…everything from vegetable and fruit peelings to teabags, toilet roll tubes, cereal boxes and eggshells….

Add words and pictures of anything and everything that interests you.

3. Fill it up
A 50/50 mix of greens and browns is the perfect recipe...

A  50/50 mix of tea/coffee and chocolate is the perfect recipe for good composting. The occasional glass of wine won’t do any harm but too much may damage the contents of your bin.

 4. Wait a while.
It takes between nine and twelve months for your compost to become ready for use

Sounds about right. Glance in your bin occasionally, but get on with tending to other things.


5. Ready to use
Once your compost has turned into a crumbly, dark material, resembling thick, moist soil and gives off an earthy, fresh aroma, you know it’s ready to use.

Your ideas have mingled and matured into something that feels right - and hopefully smells fresh, too! 

6. Removing the compost
Scoop out the fresh compost with a garden fork, spade or trowel.

Pen, pencils, paint or keyboard may also be used.

7. Use it.
Don’t worry if your compost looks a little lumpy with twigs and bits of eggshell – this is perfectly normal.

Phew!

Thanks www.recyclenow.com. The next tip is mine:

8.  Nurture what grows in it.




Among the weeds, something is budding that has the potential to grow into something extraordinary...



Jane first heard the word ‘composting’ in this context from her agent Celia Catchpole, and thought it summed up the process perfectly.   Jane's website
Julia Woolf did the sketches in very cold and sometimes windy conditions, but loved every minute. She says ‘The allotment’s a very special (sort of hidden) place, like the secret garden.’


30 comments:

  1. Thanks Jane (and Julia!). Lots of fun -and true!

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  2. Love it, Jane. I've had rats in mine. Even a fire, once, when I thought wood ash might be a good idea (omitted to read the instructions - extinguish before use). Result - one melted compost bin, one scorched sycamore.

    But every now and again it works, and matures, and a fine tilth (and the odd half-decent story) ensues.

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  3. An attractive and interesting blog, Jane and Julia. When we're asked how long does it takes to write a book, it's so hard to quantify the 'composting'. Plus not everything composts at the same rate and some decomposes into slime (or maybe that's just my compost!).

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    1. Paeony, a lot of my compost turns out to be slime :-)
      And yes, I also find it impossible to give a simple answer to the question 'how long does it take you to write a picture book?'

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  4. Haha 'composting' is exactly the right word for it Jane! Often when something isn't coming together I just work on a different book. The first idea lurks somewhere in my subconscious and will sooner or later come to the surface. The trick is to know which ideas to nurture and which, as Paeony describes, should be left to decompose into slime!

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  5. I think I may add too much chicken poo to my compost. I get an acceleration of decomposition and then it just stagnates. This metaphor is too good. Frighteningly good.

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    1. Thanks for making me snort with laughter, Kathryn and for the extra tip. Try to resist adding too much poo of any kind.

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    2. Put that chicken poo in a bag in a bin. Add some rainwater. Leave for a few weeks. Then use the water as fertiliser. That's how I get a houseful of year-round flowering geraniums (smelly, but smiley). Even the pooiest of ideas can come to fruition if left long enough and put to the right uses.

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  6. Love this! I often talk about imagination-as-compost-bin in schools, when I am asked the inevitable question: where do you get your ideas? I even have pictures of compost to show them - not as beautiful as these, though, just photos of mouldy old carrots.

    I think Tolkien talked about the imagination as compost...that's what I tell the kids, anyhow. Must dig out the reference some time (no pun intended).

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    1. I don't know the Tolkien reference, Emma, if you do dig it out (love it), please post it here.

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  7. Great analogy! As a new picture book writer this is really helpful insight, as well as making me laugh (and remember all the allotment / gardening jobs piling up for once the snow has gone...). Although given I'm already politely ignoring pointed comments from my husband about my book habit, if I add squirrelling away more idea stuff, I might find myself out on the street!

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  8. Fantastic! And that goes for novels too!

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  9. Brilliant! I love the pictures, but the analogy really works too. Our compost bin has a hole at the bottom where you're supposed to get the crumbly stuff out. But.... it doesn't sink! It just stays there up at the top, where you can't get at it. And that is also a frighteningly accurate analogy sometimes!

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  10. Great post. I have two compost bins - seem to produce a LOT of waste! Ours all sticks at the top too, Sue. My husband heaves himself up and jumps about on it to squash it down. Then the good, crumbly stuff can be reached. I'm off to jump up and down on my notebook now.

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    1. Loving the mental picture of you jumping up and down on your notebook :-)

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  11. Enjoyed that, what a great analogy! Here's my 'compost bin', inspired by Allan Ahlberg: http://www.janeporter.co.uk/general-news/a-suitable-repository-for-ideas

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  12. Loved this post, and the beautiful pictures! Sue, you need a couple, and then when the first is ready, you just take the dalek off it. I don't believe that stuff about putting it in at the top and shovelling it out at the bottom. It has to be left to mature properly. Patience is required, and a fork to turn it with (deters rats). Rats are like the dreadful doubts that can stymie your fiction, I think! To stop it sliming, make sure you put shredded newspaper in, or line your kitchen compost bin with newspaper and turn it out with the compost. Don't use shiny paper as it contains toxins in the ink. There must be some analogy here with writing, maybe it's like the chicken manure - use sparingly, so you mustn't get TOO intense. And if you have space - I know everyone hasn't - keep a separate heap for long-term, on which you can put tough leaves, brussels stalks, and other stuff that won't rot down quickly. (Future ideas?) Alternatively, take the twiggy bits and uncomposted things, and put them into the new heap when you start it. Not everything should be used at once! Things take as long as they take, etc.

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    1. Lots of food for thought here, Elli - beware those Rats of Doubt...

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  13. Patience needed . . . that's the rub! Great post, Jane, and beautiful illustrations from Julia.

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  14. Your blog made me laugh, Jane, and those illustrations are gorgeous, Julia. I need to stir up my stacks of ideas very soon, and I was just wondering whether the addition of a few bookworms might be beneficial.

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    1. Bookworms would be perfect in ideas compost, Ragnhild!

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  15. Great post Jane and thanks everyone for the lovely comments.

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    1. Thanks for letting me use your lovely sketches, Julia x

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  16. The analogy is just perfect. In fact, I'm in the process of sending my agent a story written from an idea I've had composting in my head for absolutely ages. People often think I write quickly but I don't; the actual getting down on paper/computer may be quick, but the composting sometimes takes years.

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    1. Agreed, the process can be very, very slow!

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  17. Great analogy! I'll never look at my compost heap in quite the same way again.

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  18. Thanks, everyone for your comments, I enjoyed reading them all.

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    1. Re. the origin of the phrase - Celia says 'I first heard this used of the mind in the context of meditation in Tibetan Buddhism, a book by Chogyam Trungpa which I read back in the flowery 70s'

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