Writing and the Junk Drawer of Life–Finding a Place for Everything

This morning I was doing my early morning walk through the neighborhood, pondering the universe, when I had a profound thought. My life is like my kitchen junk drawer. Stop laughing. It’s true. Sometimes, when I put in a lot of extra effort, it is neat and clean and streamlined…and then the Law of Entropy somehow takes over. It is a never-ending battle against my own selfish will to goof off. And yet, I have to admit, my junk drawer is usually one of the most interesting locations in my house.

The junk drawer is always full of things we don’t want to face—an unpaid bill, a child’s bad report card, a letter from some crazy family member we can’t throw away but try to ignore. Something sticky that we just can’t bear cleaning. Do it later. Full of unfinished business. Write that “thank you” note later. Pay that bill later.

My life is also full of these things I don’t want to face—my laziness, my tendency to procrastinate, my harshness with myself and others. Stickiness that I just can’t face cleaning. Will get organized…later.

Junk drawers are also filled with things of questionable value; an extra screw that we just can’t figure out where it goes, a single AA battery that we are too cheap to throw away, but too lazy to put with the other batteries (wherever they are). Oh, and a tiny calendar from a real estate agent that we will never use, but don’t have the guts to toss. Markers that work when you lick the tip and pens with schmutz clogging the end…but if you scribble real hard they still work. Packets of ketchup when there is a full bottle in the fridge. Packets of salt and pepper and sporks from fast food joints.

My mind, too, holds on to things of questionable value. I have all kinds of experiences and bits of knowledge that puzzle even me. I am flypaper for useless trivia, like the end of a shoelace is called an aglet and the element helium was discovered in the late 1800s when scientists were studying the sun, and it is named after the Greek Sun god, Helios. I don’t know why I know these things, but I do. I don’t know why I can’t find my car keys, but I can remember that Washington Carver invented peanut butter and that the first thing I ever took to Show and Tell in Kindergarten was Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (yeah, I am a nerd from way back).

Ah, but then there are the hidden treasures of the junk drawer; the sweet card from a husband for no reason at all, a photo that missed the baby book, a $20 bill we forgot we had, a rebate check we forgot to cash, ticket stubs from a memorable concert, or even wheat pennies and Canadian pennies that we have sorted from the real pennies since we were children.

Which brings me to my point…

Our lives are all like junk drawers; full of the messy, the missing, the mystifying and the magical. Sometimes I think that is why I became a writer, to “sort out” the junk drawer of my soul. So often my stories feature characters so similarly flawed as me. And, as I help them learn and grow…strangely, so do I. With writing, I can find use for random childhood memories, like the smell of Breck shampoo or the taste of coconut sno-cones. Through stories, I can give them new life in new context so that they can live forever…or at least longer. Through fiction, I can tend unfinished business, like a broken heart that never mended or a dream I was too scared to pursue.

With fiction…it all oddly makes sense.

And I will continue filling the drawer with experiences and information and ideas and dreams and heartbreaks and disappointments and tragedies. Then I will sit down and sort and take what will work and then I will toss the remains back in and label them “Miscellaneous” until I find them a home.

What do you do with random memories and experiences? How do you use them? Keep track of them? Leave a comment and share. We’d like to know.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

Weekly blog posts I recommend:

Publishing is changing faster than ever. It’s our job as writers to keep up. I recommend, Agent’s Corner–What We’ve Gained and What We’ve Lost and

Where will Bookstores be 5 Years from Now? Some great thoughts on pitching an agent by Bob Mayer.

For those with a small press, indie press, self-pubbed, etc, this should be os particular interest, Smashwords founder Mark Coker talks to Wetmachine about the future of publishing.

My favorite professional blog of the week is by agent, Rachelle Gardner, Mythbusting.

And this little blog is a jewel…and I thought that before she posted a link to my blog. Tawna Fenske has a contagious humor that will leave you wishing her blogs were as long as mine😀. She is funny, insightful and this blog, Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing is a rare treat guaranteed to brighten your day. If it doesn’t, then you really need to lighten up, so read it again. *hugs*

I also recommend Author Jody Hedlund’s blog. She is an amazing woman and writer and she is one of those people who just make you feel better for knowing her. She is actually my inspiration for blogging three times a week. Jody is a testament to those who balance family, work, life and yet still make it a point to give back to others.

And if you are an author and you want to know how to start building a social media platform, I (of course) recommend my new book. We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the book for those who even feel intimidated by the Dummies books. A fun, practical approach to building a readership.

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  1. #1 by Mary on August 6, 2010 - 12:58 pm

    I like it! Right now, my writing is very junk drawer-y. A disorganized, overflowing junk drawer. (a good first draft, I guess!) Then, I’ll clean it up (second draft). And send it to a beta who will mess it up again, so I can tidy even more! Ha–see, you got me going.🙂

  2. #2 by sharla on August 6, 2010 - 1:14 pm

    HAAAAAAAAAAAA Love it Kristen! Love the junk drawer parallel! Great post.

  3. #3 by Nigel on August 6, 2010 - 1:22 pm

    I have a cupboard full of cables and battery chargers for things I never knew how to wire up in the first place. I think someones going to be strangled by wire in an up and coming chapter.
    I hate the way junk builds up. When you move into a new house it’s all clean and empty then gradually this stuff piles up. It was at some stage emotionally satisfying to buy the stuff and the funny thing is (if you get over the fear) throwing the stuff out can be just as satisfying. Bit like writing a book…
    I’ve really got to conquer that fear!

  4. #4 by Tawna Fenske on August 6, 2010 - 4:50 pm

    Aww, thanks for mentioning me!

    Looks like you’ve got some fabulous links in here. I’m eager to go check them out!

    Tawna

  5. #5 by Donna on August 7, 2010 - 9:34 am

    You have just described what I did yesterday while looking for a credit card. Those lone batteries are still in the drawer but now neatly placed in a glass candle cup. Actually there are two of these cups. Dont ask why and I wont have to think very hard. I also found a staggering amount of pens, receipts from 2007, foreign pennies from countries I have never visited and the obligatory tangled ball of cotton. Admittedly I was a little ruthless and threw some crap away but most of it stayed – only now my drawer is neater, for a while anyway.

  6. #6 by DJ ( Darla) on August 8, 2010 - 6:10 pm

    Kristen,

    Enjoyed the blog! This is so true, one of the comments mentioned moving…I have finally had to deal with all the past baggage that I moved along in boxes for the last several years not quite done – almost …. whew! what a job!!! not fun but a very necessary evi, so that I not only find a place for everything but I now have more clarity of mind. And for organizing my thoughts I journal in bright colors and don’t like like missing a day :)Keep the great blogs coming!!!

  1. Junk drawer, by Audrey Keith | Karen R. Sanderson's Blog

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