Writing and the Junk Drawer of Life–Finding a Place for Everything in 2011

Today is a repost, but this blog is one of my all-time favorites, and I thought it was perfect to close out the year. I hope you guys enjoy your time off if you have some. For me, this will be one of the best Christmases ever, mainly because of this blog. I have been immensely blessed to get to know so many great people who, otherwise, would have never crossed my path. Thanks for blessing me with your friendship.

One morning, a few months back, 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. Yes, I cheated and didn’t write a totally new blog for today, but I am still keeping an eye on the blog, and your contributions are the best part of what I do.

Happy writing and Merry Christmas!

Until next time…

Give yourself the gift of success for the coming year. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books!

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  1. #1 by Callene on December 24, 2010 - 3:17 pm

    You have an almost uncanny ability to see into my head. I never thought about the junk drawer (for me it’s more like a junk room) as a metaphor for life but it really is. We collect things and memories and ideas that make us who we are and it’s hard to let go of them even when they don’t fit us anymore. Full of unfinished business. But again, its so much fun to trip over an old penny or an old memory, as long as you don’t let it suck you into shoulda,coulda, woulda!

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    Callene

  2. #2 by Piper Bayard on December 24, 2010 - 3:19 pm

    An excellent post to get me thinking about New Year’s resolutions. . . . Tomorrow. Merry Christmas, Kristen, and thank you for your consistent excellence and support.

  3. #3 by Mindi Anderson on December 24, 2010 - 4:32 pm

    Being a new subscriber to your blog, I enjoyed your musings for the day.

    Keep inspiring!🙂

  4. #4 by silvercannon on December 24, 2010 - 9:59 pm

    An online private journal is a place I like to keep such things. It’s quite a mish-mash of memories, trivia and observations that have sparked my interest. Great post!

  5. #5 by Marilag Lubag on December 24, 2010 - 10:42 pm

    This gave me an idea. I had a lot of traumatic experiences that someone urged me to write a memoir. Anyway, I guess I can use bits and pieces of it when I write. Like make a character take someone I know or maybe give my main character some of me–flaws and all.

  6. #6 by Thaddeus Dombrowski on December 25, 2010 - 4:38 am

    Great post.

  7. #7 by kadja2 on December 25, 2010 - 5:57 am

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I am new to your blog, but I can definitely relate to that “useless knowledge” thing. My sister says I have a lot of it–but when they get stuck on a question about a certain type of thing, guess who they ask! Hey, if I ever get on “Millionaire” can you be my dial a friend? LOL! The funny thing about car keys and remote controls is that I can have them in PLAIN sight and still not be able to find them!

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year, Kristen! May 2011 be a year of continued opportunity and success for you!

  8. #8 by the rhythm method on December 25, 2010 - 5:42 pm

    Thank you!! You just put to words things that I didn’t know were in my own junk-drawer mind. Like pouring me an icey glass of water right at that moment I realise I have been thirsty all night. Great insight into Life and Writing. Doesn’t matter that it was recycled – the best bits always are. Thank you, thank you, thank you. See you in 2011.

  9. #9 by keroome on December 26, 2010 - 7:53 pm

    HI, I’m glad you reposted this since I didn’t see it the first time. By the way, at my house its been labeled “the man drawer” probably due to I’m the main contributor.
    What I do with odd memories or long forgotten bits of thoughts, is try and think of how I felt at the time of their occurance, or if its been just to long for that, how does it make me feel right now as I’m thinking it. From there I might scribble it as is, or turn it into a more useful line and then scribble it, and pin it to my “useful for later” board. But mostly, with the feeling part now in a stronger conscious place, it is more likely to become whole itself, or part of, a whole-ness.
    ken

  10. #10 by Sherry White on December 26, 2010 - 9:05 pm

    What a great insight into most peoples lives. We’ve all done it. We’ve all been there. Our memories can never be taking from us, bad or good. They travled life’s road with us. What a sense of self you have for just being plain human, Kristen. I look forward to your posts each day. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  11. #11 by Sanna on December 27, 2010 - 7:37 pm

    Great blog!
    And yes, my life is a jung drawer too. *grin*

    • #12 by Sanna on December 27, 2010 - 7:38 pm

      Ups, I mean a junk drawer.
      See! I said so. *lol*

      • #13 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 27, 2010 - 7:54 pm

        Maybe the Jung Drawer is a Freudian slip? LOL.

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