Recycling: That Idea in the Blind Spot

Last week I started thinking about recycling as a strategy.

Here’s what usually happens when something slaps me in the face:

There’s something I’ve been doing, or something someone I know has been doing, but I never consider it. I see it, I know it’s going on, but I don’t put a name on it. I don’t acknowledge it.

It’s that car in my blind spot that I’m always surprised to see when I look over my left shoulder.

Last week, Baker Lawley left a post-post comment asking about sticking to our guns and just doing what we knew is right. His comment and a few e-mails with Mr. Swag Club got me thinking about recycling.

I started writing this post, with the idea that recycling is a loaded word for writers.

Truth is, Mr. Swag Club is the first person I mentioned it to—he got my wheels spinning—and then I started thinking about how I’ve thought about the word myself.

Example #1:

There’s a journalist I spoke with about two weeks ago:

Him: “I’m expanding the brief mention of X person in Y book into a full-length feature for Z newspaper.”

Me: “Cool. You’re recycling it.”

Him: “No, it’s something new.”

Me picking my battles: “Sounds like a good idea.”

Example #2:

One phrase I’ve heard and said dozens of times: “No, that’s old. It’s been recycled.”

There’s an idea, it’s been done. And the perceived negative is that it has been recycled. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a new way to do it.

Shakespeare—He’s been recycled hundreds of times, from high school plays to the recent animated film Gnomeo and Juliet.  Some of the recycles have been extraordinary—and then there’s the rest . . .

But when I look at blogging and recycling, that’s where I completely missed the boat.

I was in traditional Cheerios mode—without all the different flavors, cruising as the original, not figuring out how to take something that was working out a step.

A lot of time and energy goes into blogging. So why stop at original? Why not do something else with all of the posts? How do we get to Honey Nut Cheerios? How do we present something in a new way, for those who aren’t keen on—or don’t know about—the original?

Steve’s Warrior Ethos series and book are recycled. He researched the Warrior Ethos and wove it throughout The Profession. He expanded the topic for the blog series and then packaged it as a book. One idea, different forms and packaging.

Until last week, I didn’t recognize recycling as a strategy—just something we did.

Also last week:

Jonathan Fields presented a beautiful recycle.

Jonathan tells an emotional story in his new book trailer. He took an experience that made an impact on him and retells it for the rest of us. It’s a great story. He took something old and made it new—in a beautiful way that I’m better for having heard it. And, yeah, his book trailer works. No question. Something to share.

And just to give you an example of a recycle with a stench, here’s another bit that hit this past week:

Remember Crookster Bernie Madoff With iPad Cases Made From His Old Pants

***When you read this article, notice the use of “Upcycling” which is another spin on recycle.

So that’s the scoop. We have our minds on recycling and avoiding creative landfills.

Recycling, upcycling, reusing, retelling, repackaging, re-whatevering. It’s one thing that has worked for Steve’s projects.

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THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

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DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

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NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

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TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

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4 Comments

  1. Michelle Vargas on August 12, 2011 at 2:53 am

    This really has me gears turning, thank you for sharing these ideas. Outlook on “old” content: reset. I feel like I’ll need to keep coming back to read this.

    Also, I produced Jonathan Field’s book trailer, so I felt a little swoop in my belly when it was mentioned. Caught me off guard! 🙂

  2. Baker Lawley | Catfish Parade on August 12, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Great stuff, Callie–and THANKS for mentioning me! I love the idea of recycling as a creative act (I actually wrote about this very topic recently on my site).

    Writers put so much emphasis on being original, but actually, recycling is part of everything we write. My favorite example of recycling come from Tolstoy, who said that there were really only two stories written in fiction: someone goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. Every story fits those two scenarios somehow–so, we’re all recycling whether we know it or not!

    I think once we accept that recycling IS a creative strategy, we can use it fruitfully. Glad to hear your take on this! And to Michelle–you did an AWESOME job with Jonathan’s book trailer. Big congrats on that work.

  3. Don MacNaughton on August 12, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Resonates with me Steven,when I think of my life. My Strengths , Skills , Gifts .Some I have put to the side, taken for granted and how I can recycle these for who I am now and where I want to be in the world …Slainte Don

  4. Ernesto Dettman on November 28, 2011 at 8:44 am

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