It is my opinion that a lot of writers are hoarders. Why do I say this? Simple. Writers never throw anything away. Writers say to themselves, ‘I may need this someday,’ or ‘this is too valuable to chuck,’ and that thing, that item they can’t toss out gets warehoused, and maybe stockpiled with the ‘this reminds me of grandpa,’ stuff. I don’t mean to suggest that authors live amid stacks of newspapers and massive collections of rubbish and 700 kitties, and rat-chewed things. This sort of hoarding does not equate to traversing or spelunking though a warren of carefully carved out trails and that lead from their desk to the kitchen and bathroom and bed. Writers have stacks and collections and boxes full of a snippet of this, a silver of that, a behemoth chunk of something that leads to storing items on a massive scale.
What I mean is this: Writers, kids, are story hoarders.
There may or may not physical evidence of this hoarding. An author may keep a journal or a folder (electronic or the kind that sits on a shelf), have a bulletin board or make a collage of hoarded stuff. The stuff I’m talking about is what a reader (or an interviewer) might call the idea for your story, or, in some cases, the entire story itself.
I count myself as a one who hoards internally. My head is jammed-packed full of collections and snippets and slivers of things I saw, places I’ve been to, conversations I’ve heard. Some of the bits I’ve hoarded have actually make out and onto the page. For example, a tiny little sign at the bottom of the driveway of a house that survived a devastating fire In Los Alamos, New Mexico, led to A Basic Renovation. I visited the town, shortly after that blaze, and saw that lone house survivor and the sign that said Last One Standing. I chucked that baby into the pile of stuff in my head. A similar thing happened with For Your Eyes Only, which also happens to take place In Los Alamos.
Now, Los Alamos is an interesting place. It was the once-secret town where the first two atomic bombs were built. Until recently, there was a fantastic Little Shop of Hoards called The Black Hole, which, as the website says, “began as a recycler of last year’s technology from the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.” Originally the company was called The Los Alamos Sales Company, but it became better known as The Black Hole because “everything goes in and nothing comes out.”
Of course you see how I’m going to pull this back to writers being hoarders, don’t you? Yes, Los Alamos, The Black Hole, and this little writer have much in common.
Los Alamos is still home to a National Nuclear Research Facility, which means there’s top secret atomic and atomic-related research going on, which also means that you’d be hard pressed to throw a stone in Los Alamos and not hit someone with a PhD. Willa, the heroine in For Your Eyes Only has a PhD in Quantum Physics, and classified information from the Lab has been stolen, and all that came from a news story I read about a dug bust in Los Alamos. The bust turned up a few flash drives—the little USB memory sticks—that were full of classified data from the Lab. But before that, there were other news stories I read about missing classified information. There was the one where a few laptops full of classified information went missing, another regarding a man suspected of stealing documents (he was put in solitary confinement for months), one more about a couple who were accused of selling classified information to a country in South America… All those news stories got tossed into the giant pile o’ stuff inside my head, which I’m sure resembles the photo of the Black Hole. I knew it was too valuable to throw away. I knew I’d need it someday.
For me, being a hoarder also means I never get rid of anything I’ve written. Even that first horrible, top-secret-classified-for-my-eyes-only novel I penned sits somewhere in my repository of junk and stuff I can’t throw away. Well, actually, it sits in the top of my wardrobe in a big fat envelope, all six hundred and twenty-seven pages of it.
Of course I have an electronic copy of it too.