Monday, June 3, 2013


Is there an expiration date on writing ideas?

With food and drinks, we don't have to guess.  The expiration dates--best used by, freeze by, or sell by-- are stamped on the containers.

But does an idea become too old to use? Does an inclination to write about a particular topic spoil or rot if we don't use it in time?

And if so, how old it too old?

Has the time passed for that topic that occurred to you three months ago, or six months ago, or a year ago?

Sometimes I read about something in the news so surprising or unusual  or controversial, or otherwise striking that I feel I must write about it.   I clip or tear out  the item and save it,  planning on a near-future poem or essay or writing prompt, or more recently, a blog post, only to come across that item months later, years later-- and think  I missed the window on this.  It is no longer current.  I am no longer interested in it.  No one will remember, or care or engage with this now.

It happened the other morning.  

I came across an article I had saved from a newspaper clipping of an article I read while in Aruba in April.

The headline of the clipping read At the 11th Hour, China's Censors Bar 'Django Unchained'
At the time this caught my attention for several reasons.

First, I have seen the movie and I loved it. 

Second, this movie didn't have to go all the way to China to be criticized or excoriated .  It had its challenges here at home.  

Enough folks that I would have expected to have been supportive here in the United States had plenty  to say against the movie--oddly and sadly, without having seen the movie.  Worse yet these naysayers vowed NOT to see the movie. 

In my opinion, then they don't know what they are talking about and have no real opinion on the movie--only opinions on other peoples' opinions or their own imagined truths.

Filmmaker Spike Lee was one of those who categorically  and openly criticized the movie without having seen it, along with comedian Katt Williams.  Shame on  them!  Lee cited  an incomplete account of slavery and disrespect to his  Black ancestors as his issues.  Katt William took issue with language and word choices used in the film-- most specifically the number of times the N word was used .

The movie is a spaghetti western--the good guy wins over the collective evils, cunningly and brutally.  This was not a documentary on slavery.  It was entertainment set in a particular historic time frame.

 So I wondered, what was China's issue?

In China, the issue seemed to be the amount of blood, the color of the blood and the height of blood spatter.  I  never saw how this issue got resolved in China, although  Quentin Tarantino seemed willing to edit and adjust to the Chinese blood and violence standards.

In the meantime, amid and despite the criticism,  the movie Django Unchained generated many award nominations and awards. 

But is this idea's timeliness now over? Does any one care any longer? Or has the curtain come down on this idea's time on the stage of our awareness and concern?


Will my concerns rise again with a different film, book or other medium where folks are criticizing blindly?


As I go through my thick folder of clipped found articles--snippets of potentials and possibilities, I find a number of forgotten ideas.

Below are headlines or titles of some of these clippings--- lost or perhaps, expired ideas:

  • Idea of 'American' name gets more foreign: Those with nontraditional monikers welcome changing trend   Columbus Dispatch November 30, 2008

Having been a teacher for 35 years I am no longer taken aback by unusual names, common names pronounced in unlikely ways, or names from other countries, other languages or just plain creatively made up.  This article links these common questions asked of folks with unusual names How do you say your name? What kind of name is that? How did you get your name? to our current president.

Our president,  Barack Hussein Obama knows a little bit about this. His name still comes up as an error on my spell check.

But haven't we all read the funny/unusual/ foreign-name articles? Has the window closed on that idea?  

What can I bring to this that is new?

This article centered around the controversy in France and  included a picture guide to various veils , including their names and descriptions.  At the time I was interested, as many of my students wore  a variety of kinds of veils.  At the time I was educating myself.

Others clippings for potential future writings included:

  • Walmart Worker Crushed in Sales Rush : 'Out-of-control' shoppers smashed through doors as store opened  Columbus Dispatch November 28, 2008
This event took place on Black Friday in New York- Click here to read  a similar article--I  could not locate the original.)

  • The Amazing Adventures of Super -Teacher: or how teachers across the country are using comic books and graphic novels to add a little snap to their lesson by Mary Ellen Flannery. NEA Today Jan/Feb 2009
  • Make Writing a  Part of Your Daily Routine   (full page ad for The Daily Writer: 366
    Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life
    by Fred White
     Writer's Digest Feb 2009

This is a  book I have since bought, along with other books by  the same author.        

Again this was  a full page ad.  I know  one of the editors.  This book was  launched at NCTE in 2008.

This  happened in a small town in Mexico and seemed to me to comment on the larger issues of community, medicine, illnesses, and fear.

In addition there were several literacy related comic strips or cartoons in the folder, saved with intentions of  using them as openings to pieces of writing or as part of PowerPoint presentations.

And... then there is my  most prized and forgotten treasure among the items in the folder--a  baggy full of messages and notes on tiny post-its and scraps of notebook paper that I took from one child's desk.  He was guilty of writing a quite nasty note to another student, a note that included unprintable words.   Then there is also a second envelope because I got fascinated by the whole notion of the notes and collected student notes from the floor the rest of the year.

I had originally planned an entire piece (research, essay?) on relationships in the classroom.--friendship, love, anger, conflict and drama based on the evidence and representative samples of these notes. 

But I think since I am no longer in the context in which the notes were written, and some of the pencilled notes are now faded, the idea has expired.

Or perhaps there is still some time left on this one--- I am getting re-interested as I reread some of the notes. I may pull the notes back out and reconsider their potential.

Are there ideas that you have interested you, that now seem past their prime time?

Do writing ideas have an expiration date?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Dig through your pile of clippings or reserved writing ideas.This may be an actual folder or files in your memory.

Make a list of topics you about which you at one time planned on writing.  
Make a list of writing ideas that have occurred to you which you have never used.

As you go through the list, consider which ideas seem to expired.

Choose one  of the ideas that has not expired as your topic for  today.

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