Thanks for inviting me to guest blog! (And hi to all the Femmes Fatales who I know—which is most of you!)
Some people call me a pack rat. Of course, those are only the people who know me.
I’ll admit it. I collect stuff. Lots of stuff. But now, as I help my mother-in-law go through all of her old stuff, I see a potential problem in the offing. The more junk you have, the more junk you need to get rid of!
I just wished I’d come to this conclusion sooner.
My mother-in-law’s desk was like one of those stratified archeological dig sites. On top, the most recent stuff. Semi-current bills. Pizza delivery menus. Business cards of people still alive. As we dug deeper, however, more of the distant past was unearthed. We found coupons for a car wash. (She no longer drives. Doesn’t even own a car.). We found paperwork from companies that don’t exist anymore (some of the receipts were decades old - “Hi, I’d like to return this Betamax. Don’t worry, I have the receipt.”). We found baby pictures of people nobody recognized. Most of those people probably already had their own babies. And grandbabies.
A few snarky thoughts ran through my head until I realized: That was me in a few years!!
I found three foam fingers (you know, the giant ones that say “We’re Number One!”). I only have two hands!
I have enough old computer power cords, ac adapters, cables, and miscellaneous electronics parts to furnish the set of The Big Bang Theory (and any spinoffs that might arise). I discovered a whole box of perforated printer paper (the kind where all the sheets are connected). I don’t think I’ve ever owned a printer that uses that kind of paper. (None of the six printers I own now do…)
I counted twenty-seven cardboard magazine holders, none of which are actually holding any magazines. (Hey, you never know when you’ll need those! Do they still publish LOOK Magazine?).
All the stuff I just mentioned? All in my office! (Well, only three of the printers. Right next to three old laptops, stacked on top of each other.)
How did I amass so much crap? As you might imagine, I have a hard time throwing things away that might have utility. I have two (2!) old dishwasher racks, just in case I ever need someplace to dry small things I’ve painted. For the record, I don’t paint.
I have the wheeled base from an old chair, just in case I want to construct something that needs a wheeled base from an old chair. (I could go on describing all the junk I’ve collected, but I’m sure there’s a limit to the number of bytes available on the Internet.)
I’m a recovering garage sale junkie. In college, I furnished my dorm room with other people’s outcasts, and it was then I began collecting records (for people aged thirty to forty-five, those are things that hold music, like CDs. For anyone under thirty, records are dinner-plated-sized MP3 storage devices.).
When I had small kids, I’d frequent garage sales looking for used sporting goods. Of course, my real reason for going to these garage sales was to find old, out-of-print books. Consequently, I have thousands of old books (and thousands of new books, too. Can’t ever have too many books!).
What does this have to do with writing? No surprise, but I’m a pack rat there, too. I maintain files of deleted scenes, paragraphs, sentences, even words (for the words, I only keep the deleted ones if they’re really, really good).
Like most writers, I also keep all my old manuscripts. RUNNING FROM THE PAST was the second manuscript I’d ever written (back then, it was titled FATHERS AND SONS). When I finished it, I understood that it wasn’t very good, so I put it aside and went to work on book number three. It wasn’t until some years later that I took another look at that dusty manuscript.
I liked the story. I liked the characters. I abhorred the writing.
So I opened two windows up on my computer: a copy of the horribly-written manuscript and a blank Word document. I proceeded to re-write every single sentence. Then I went through the usual steps: revision, revision, revision. Polishing, polishing, polishing.
That finished manuscript, completely overhauled from its original form, became the book that just came out, RUNNING FROM THE PAST.
If only I could be as resourceful with those old dishwasher racks.
What’s your best “packratting” story? I’ll “gift” a Kindle copy of RUNNING FROM THE PAST to the commenter with the best one!
Alan Orloff’s latest novel, RUNNING FROM THE PAST, a “winner” in Amazon’s Kindle Scout Program, was released last week from their new imprint, Kindle Press. For more info about Alan, visit his website: www.alanorloff.com.