| Angie Counios

Recycle/Reuse/Reduce

What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing

- Aristotle

For the sake of understanding environmental issues, I decided to participate in a more hands on way. For thirty days I only allowed myself one small white plastic bag of trash at the end of the month.

Yes, one bag, the whole month.

This brought on a whole new meaning to recycle/reuse/reduce.

If I went out, I wasn’t allowed to take leftovers with me unless I already had a container in my purse. I couldn’t purchase a coffee unless it was going in a reusable travel mug. Everything had to be recycled and all waste food had to be composted.

The challenge was successful. Putting items into their proper places (compost, paper, plastic, glass, trash, etc.) was easy once I got into the routine of the process.

How does all this recycling connect to writing?

Let me begin by saying that this is simply my observation of how I have witnessed my writing partner recycle, reuse and reduce.

Since the beginning of working with Dave, I have seen us fall into two categories:

  • Me: words, words, words
  • Dave: not so many words

In the six or seven feature length scripts we’ve written together, I have watched Dave snip-snip-snip away unnecessary dialogue to move the story forward.

I even joke that one day I’m going to buy him a pair of golden scissors for his ferocious ability to snip away unnecessary words.[1]

And he can always count on me to fill in spaces with gooey wordy goodness (See? Like, right there). Although I hope to get as good as Dave at recycling and reusing words, I also feel that our styles are well-matched.

Dave's process

One morning while enjoying our coffees and doing read-throughs of the final section of the book, here’s what I observed: David took large parts of a paragraph and cut it right out. We don't know who wrote it originally but it doesn't matter.

However, he saved it elsewhere and then in the smoothest of gestures, he found a home for it somewhere else in the story just like that. As if it belonged in that second spot all along.

It's amazing! He just seems really, really good at refiling words, sentences, and paragraphs!

It's like little blue bins of extra words popping up all over the place. It's like upcycling because the second placement always seems better than the first. He reduces what was originally there, but then he recycles it by reusing it in a different part of the story.

I guess, he's doing his part to keep our world of words cleaner.

Simplicity is the glory of expression ~Walt Whitman

Takeaway: You don’t need to use a lot of words to say what you need to, and I believe this 'clean' word usage makes it easier on the reader.


Do you like it when writers explore their worlds with as many words as possible, or do you prefer stripped down prose?

Let us know in the comments.


  1. Yes, Dave used his scissors all over this bit of writing as well. ↩︎

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