Be A Hoarder! Or How I Learned The Important Lesson Of Being Hungry For Inspiration.
Updated: Jan 17
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Every writer knows two things: A good story is unique, as in something readers haven't seen before, and is relatable, as in something that rings true.
That can sometimes be a tall order, especially in a modern information technology world where it all has been done before. Finding something novel to say can mean pushing the boundaries of reality further and further. A problem all science fiction writers are familiar with.
Then you're told to bring it back down to reality? Goodness, gracious.
Ok. All that is perfectly doable for us creative types. And if you struggle to come up with killer story concepts, head to this post here.
Today, I want to give you a related piece of advice. Maybe advice is too strong of a word, but definitely advice adjacent. In this post, I will tell you about a lesson I accidentally learned from my grandfather. One that has forever changed how I approach my everyday interactions and experiences.
My Grandfather was a Hoarder
I remember visiting his house as a kid and having to squeeze even my small child frame through and around so much stuff it's unfathomable thinking back on it now.
See, my grandfather worked for a museum and was a collector and restorer of antiques. Furniture, toys, machinery, you name it. So not only was his home filled to the max, it was filled with some of the most remarkable pieces of history I have ever seen. To him, every piece of "junk" was a meaningful artifact of history.
In other words, he was thankfully not your storing poop-in-a-jar type of hoarder. Though I'm sure, those kinds find meaning in their... "possessions" as well.
Most people would scream if they saw the state of his home. I may be able to appreciate his love of the past, but damn, that house was anything but a healthy expression of a passionate hobby.
If fact, it was disgusting. And it eventually killed him. He died of a bacterial meningitis infection and a host of cancers that I am sure were directly related to living in the mold and dust-infested house.
Ok. This took a dark turn. Frankly, there are lighter topics in general.
Now that I have you all uncomfortable let's tie this into how it can help you be a better writer.
Oh god, I'm stretching the limits of decency with this one.
My grandad may have been suffering from some kind of mental illness or obsession, but you know what? When you needed something, you better believe he had it.
It might take him 5 years to find it in the basement, but he had it. He had an answer for everything. He had an example of every great thing from history and knowledge of everything in his house. Where it came from. How long ago. How it was made. Why it was made, and he even had a wonderful story to go along with it.
He didn't just hoard things. He hoarded knowledge of those things. And it, in a way, was an incredible thing.
He was also the funniest, most loving, kind-hearted man in the world. Related? Maybe not, but I'm going to throw that in there.
The Advice My Grandad Never Gave Me
As I said. My grandad died. It was a long time ago—I think I was about 11 years old.
I have a lot of great memories with him, but nothing from an age where I can say he ever gave me advice to live by. He was the play and have fun grandpa.
But I did get advice from him that he never actually gave me. Just something I learned from remembering him. Though I don't condone hoarding physical items as he did, I recommend hoarding knowledge.
And I'm going to pass that advice on to you. If you want to build a lasting and successful career in writing (doing anything, actually, but we are here for a reason), then start being a hoarder.
A hoarder of information.
A hoarder of information is someone who never stops learning. This is essential for creative people, as it keeps their minds fresh and open to new possibilities. Always be looking for new sources of inspiration and ideas.
My grandfather brought everything (historical) into his home, where he kept it with an intention to fix it and give it new life.
You have to do the same thing with experiences, interactions, and people (if you take this last one literally, know I am not responsible for the consequences ).
Every conversation you have, every current event, every laugh, tear, temper tantrum, whatever, is an item for you to file away. Something to write into a plot, a conflict for a character to overcome, or a potential passage of dialogue between lovers or enemies.
Being a hoarder of information also has some practical benefits. It can help you become more knowledgeable and better informed about the world around you. It will also help you to create stories that are interesting and relatable. In today's age of information overload, this is increasingly valuable.
So if you're feeling hungry for inspiration, don't be afraid to start hoarding information. It could be what you need to jump-start your creativity.
I want to share an example with you of something touching me.
I was editing the new title, Jack Tuesday (Amazon affiliate link), from F. Nelson Smith (Bear Hill Publishing). She emailed me near the end of the copy-edits asking for a change to one of the lines. It wasn't significant. She wanted me to add the line, "it was icy as hell."
By all accounts a totally meaningless change. But see, she lost her husband a few years ago. And she remembered when the weather (up here in Canada) got bad, he would always say the roads were "icy as hell."
It's such a small thing, but it was meaningful for her to put that in there. Just a little something to add a piece of him into the first book she wrote that he wouldn't be able to read.
You never know when something small you encounter daily will become something that adds just the right touch to your writing.
So soak in everything. Every conversation, every touch, every feeling. Because that is the unique and real thing that your story needs. Become a hoarder. A hoarder of information, knowledge, and experiences.
Don't leave anything on the table.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tessa Barron is the Editor-in-Chief at Foul Fantasy Fiction and Bear Hill Publishing. She specializes in developmental editing and writes Fantasy and Science Fiction when she is able to find the time under the pen name Turi T. Armstrong.