Writers Recycle

recycled-journalWriters are recyclers par excellence. Especially for memoir and lifestory writers, the substance of words pouring  onto the page consists of recycled memories, insights and understanding.

Many of us also recycle various materials. When I’m floundering with a concept, I raid my paper recycling pile for an oversized envelope. Something about writing on garbage frees me to write garbage, and my mental clog usually flushes right through. I keep a pile of discarded documents near the printer and print drafts on the backs. I recycle or refill empty toner and ink cartridges.

Recycling is The Right Thing to Do. It’s ecologically correct. But I learned to recycle decades before anyone heard of overpopulation, landfill crises, or global warming. My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and money was scarce for the first many years of my life as my father finished his education on the G.I. Bill and began his career.

Both my parents were amazingly resourceful and could find new uses for nearly anything. Mother was a master of what I’ve come to call Garbage Art. She could make it look so good you never realized it was garbage. She squirreled away scraps of this and that, “because I’ll need them to make something someday.” She usually did, at that.

I inherited that tendency to scan trash for transformation potential. Practice pays off. When I unpacked a computer part shipped from NewEgg last year, several yards of soft brown packing paper caught my eye. It had a soft, supple velvety feel. The natural color and texture looked warmly earthy. When I noticed it was perforated like paper towels. a light went on. Reaching for a ruler, my hunch was confirmed. Each panel was 15”by 8.5”—perfect for journal pages when folded in half.

I felt a compulsion to carefully separate the sheets. They’d become creased when wadded as packing. I ironed out the creases, leaving a worn, leathery texture. Folding them all in half was tedious, but listening to a downloaded NAMW roundtable session made the time pass quickly. I was preparing to write in two different modes: I was improving skills and clarifying concepts while preparing materials.

The next part was messy. I clamped the stack of folded sheets and coated the folds with three liberal coats of white glue. Attaching a wide strip of gauze used to mount the pages in the cover requires focus. Scrounging in the cardboard recycling pile in the garage, I found a corrugated pizza box with enough clean areas to cut cover panels 5/8” higher and equal in width to my sheets. 

The embroidery training I received quite literally at my mother’s knee (I was only 3 or 4) came into play as I unraveled some jute twine and wove a few strands into the coarse, unbleached muslin I chose for the cover. When that was finished, I carefully positioned the cover pieces on the fabric and glued them on. I leave a “gutter
5/16” plus the cardboard thickness between the spine piece and inside edge of the cover panels. Finally, I trimmed the fabric edges and glued them to the inside.

The rest was relatively simple, though it did require careful placement as I glued the “wings” of gauze to the cover, then glued folded endsheets in place inside each cover. In this case I glued a an attached bookmark made of piece of jute fiber with a tiny antique key at the end into the spine.

Making your own journal by hand is extreme, and few will ever try. Some may find it intimidating to write in a handmade book. I find it energizing. I’ve made several others from folded legal size sheets. Using journals I’ve crafted myself adds dignity and honor to my thoughts and words. Besides, I prefer unlined paper and all the coolest commercial journals have lines.

Now, if I could only figure out how to turn the huge wild turkey feather I found in the yard into a reliable pen …

Write now: consider ways you recycle and your thoughts about it. Write about this in an essay or story. 


Jane Ann McLachlan said...

I liked this blog post. Very interesting and a fun ending!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks Jane. It's not a path I anticipate more than a handful of people will ever follow, but it's fun to write about.