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The literary junk drawer: Kipple or untapped writer's resource?

Posted by Gordon on November 26, 2010 at 4:39 PM




Today I’ve resolved to clean out my office junk drawer. So I’m sorting everything into piles, mentally labelled: Keep, Toss, and What the Heck is That?


Call it kipple.


SF-author Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and a whole bunch of other stuff) coined the term for "The collection of useless bits of trash we wallow in; all the paper and junk that is not recycled."

Kipple is sometimes used pejoratively for "useless" but, c'mon folks, if it was useless why would I be keeping it?

  • That dead ballpoint pen? It just so happens that I once used a ballpoint pen to repair the office refrigerator. Take that, MacGyver!
  • Used AA batteries? Well they may just have one last emergency channel change left in them.
  • The Voodoo doll? It’s bound to come in handy sooner or later. Besides I am informed by impeccable sources that, properly used by a qualified professional, Voodoo can be used to work good as well as harm.

I am failing to make progress on the kipple, but I’ve got at least three new story ideas.


Which brings me to that other junk drawer – the one for the ideas that haven’t yet found a home.


My current kipple storage is on Outlook sticky notes. I've never been much for notebooks, though I do tend to scratch notes on envelopes, calendars and business cards -- which I promptly throw away or use as napkins.


Some of these eventually turn onto blog posts. I also have various business ideas; book titles (any takers on Ventriloquism for Dummies?), game concepts, lottery numbers, lists of things to do (which always includes keeping to-do lists) and, of course, deep thoughts.


My point being?


An artist friend once told me that art was the process of getting things out of your head so you could take some measure of control. His example was the earliest cave marking of a handprint. He said it was as though the artist were asking: What is this thing? What is it for? What can it do? How much money should I give it to carry my luggage to the taxi?


Every idea you ever came up with has a purpose.


It may have been just for the sake of getting something out of your head so you could look at it. But now it's Out There and it takes on a life of its own. You owe it to readers to give that idea a life and a home. (This gives me a great idea for an info-mercial. Does anybody have Sally Struthers' number?)


As Gene Fowler said - "Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."


Don't throw that idea away. It may come in handy some day.


Whenever you run dry - as we all do once in a while, that's the time to reach into the Literary Junk Drawer and pull out some of those ideas that have been kicking around.


Or at the very least, maybe try out that Voodoo doll.


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