Some Ideas Resurrected from a Box in the Closet

Box from the closet
One day’s closet box is another day’s treasure.

Once home to a pair of Merrell boots, the box in my living room closet labeled GRAD SCHOOL is now home to a pile of chewed-up old folders: syllabi, lesson plans, thesis, writing feedback. For nearly two years, I haven’t done anything with that box but schlep it around—Missoula to DC to Wisconsin to Minnesota.

Until yesterday. Yesterday I moved the stuff piled on top of it, pulled the box out of the closet, and went scrounging around in there. My mission? Find notes  from the 2011 Environmental Writing Institute I participated in with Rick Bass at the University of Montana. Here’s what I found in the process:

  • Trust your obsessions. They lead you somewhere.
  • For every idea you develop, find the contrary. Counter yourself.
  • What does your character want? (Wait, what do want?)
  • Your only hope of survival? Write shorter.
  • Rick Bass, screaming through a closed window toward a bunch of toddlers frolicking merrily on the lawn outside: “CLIMATE CHANGE!”
  • Your reader is hungry for the real, physical world.
  • Nouns and verbs invite a reader’s interpretation. Adjectives and adverbs impose an author’s interpretation.
  • Re: creative nonfiction: how much of my crap does anyone actually want to know?
  • Read lots of good poetry.
  • Your best sentence must be your last. Your second-best? First.

Hmm! These ideas might be worth keeping closer than a box in the closet. Especially that bit about CLIMATE CHANGE, right? Take that, innocent happy children!

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