Paper and the Art of Hoarding

Yesterday I explained to my husband (in a very frustrated tone) how I feel our house is never clean. I’d just finished cleaning. All day. He looked a little confused, standing on freshly mopped floors. As an aside, my husband is one of those guys who cleans, too – always willing to do dishes, mop, laundry, etc. I pointed out to him all the ‘deep cleaning’ nooks and crannies such as window tracks, that never seem to get done. I ranted about how I hate that, how after a day of cleaning there’s no energy left to really clean. How stuff piles up.


One of the reasons a house needs cleaning – a dog that sleeps on tables!

I swear I saw his eyes roll toward my office.

Hey now. As my mother would have said, he’s stopped preaching and started meddling.

Okay, I admit, there’s some paper in there.

Yesterday my husband asked for a notepad. I pointed him in the direction of a banker box stuffed full of blank notepads. I mean, you never know when the zombie apocalypse is going to happen and the world runs out of paper, right? Plus, every writer out there knows that moment at the store when your eye is pulled against your will toward a beautiful new notepad with blank pages just waiting for the magic of just the right pen.

Which leads to the slightly smaller box of pens.

And then, as every writer also knows, there are a few more boxes. Scraps of paper with notes on them. Ideas for stories. Quotes. Bits of over-heard dialog you might be able to use some day. Stories that died but might be repairable. Beginnings that ended. Stories that are absolutely fantastic and will be best-seller material…after years of heavy revision.

Some winter day I’m going to build a fire, make some tea, and go through those boxes. After all, how can I utilize those scraps of dialog if they’re buried under boxes and within piles of paper?


I suppose every artist collects scraps of the medium that makes them who they are. But I believe writers excel at hoarding that paper. If there’s a writer that doesn’t, I’d like to hear about it.

Though I won’t believe them.

Secret Writing Spaces

The last blog post talked about my writing space and asked about where you create. Last night I realized there are some sneaky places I write, too.

At the grocery store, when I pass you, a stranger, and smile. I might be simply polite and friendly, or a character may have just revealed some plot twist, or said something funny.

At that important meeting, when I am so clearly listening intently and taking copious notes while you sit there bored, wondering just how anal that crazy woman is…those notes are the current work in progress. Scribbled in my handwriting that, fortunately for me, no one can read (sometimes not even me). When I look up and appear to pay attention to the speaker, I’m off deep in story world and most likely not even aware the speaker is…well, speaking. Or even there.

And driving, of course. Especially when music is playing. Part of me is obviously paying attention to the road. But part of me is gone.

I plot by daydreaming the story. Visualizing it almost like a movie I’m watching within my vivid imagination. So when we’re at a dinner gathering together and I’m listening to you, hanging on your every word, I’m actually plotting. Plotting all sorts of things.

Don’t get upset, friends. I do pay attention.

Most of the time.

Spaces to Create

What do you need around you to create? My husband is building a space for wood working (which involves the purchase of expensive toys…I mean tools). A writing group recently talked about their favorite tools – pens, pencils, paper, etc. It seems we all need the right place, no matter what we create.

Like most people, I can write anywhere, but there is one spot that is my favorite. So here’s the story of my space. First the photo:


I like a corner. The feeling of being enclosed in the story world (I also love MRI machines for the same reason).

I like history, a connection to family and past, which is always a theme in my writing. Here you’ll see Gawain and his horse, a print from the 1920s that I used to sit in front of as a child and make up adventures. There’s a clipper ship, a print from the 1940s that I used to daydream in front of when very little. I must have been an odd little kid, now that I think about it; sitting on the floor in my grandmother’s house, or the home of the elderly couple that gave me the knight print, doing nothing but staring at the wall. The desk itself is an antique.

There’s a small print, also from my grandmother, that is Lake Chelan, before the dam was built, when it was still wild and free.

There’s more history. Dog tags from my father, my husband, and a cast iron beaver on a ribbon from my husband’s grandfather. A Victorian pin cushion from my grandmother. A wrought-iron candle holder found in an abandoned homestead in Montana. A lamp from my mother. A crocheted doily from my grandmother. And a modern-day flashlight for when the power goes out.

I also need mountains around me. What you can’t see in the photo are the real mountains outside.


From our back door

Then I need the mountains closer. So, back on the desk are photos from friends who also love the mountains. Fireweed growing in a high meadow. The moon coming up behind peaks. A photo of my husband and his dog on a high ledge of granite.

The green journal is my book of growing things. Or, honestly, my failures at gardening. It’s all scribbled in here so maybe next year will be better. Oh, and there’s a Waterman pen from my husband, chubby notepads which I love to scribble things in, and a black notebook that has the business end of writing inside.

And finally, a card given to me when my dad died, to remind me to pay attention to life. The card reads, ‘Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done?’

It’s not so much that these things inspire me to write. After all, they’re just things, and I can write anywhere. No, what this space does is bring me home. Tie me to past, present, and future. Ground me into daydreams, if that makes sense.

I’d love to hear from you what your space is like. Whether it’s a space to create, or simply a space that feels safe, feels like home, or relaxes you after a long day.

And speaking of those long days, let’s not forget one of the more important things on that desk. The coaster for the big mug of hot tea.