Jessie: Amidst the voluptuous green of late spring in New Hampshire
I was raised in a household of unrepentant collectors. My mother collected frogs and music boxes and books and sewing supplies. One of my sisters gathered up Barbies and books and every paper she ever turned in throughout elementary school. The other sister couldn’t get enough of anything vaguely Asian in influence.
My father was the most hardened collector of all. He collected rocks and dolls and books and stamps. He hoarded old farm tools, picture frames and art supplies. Chess sets, antique furniture and vintage bottles of patent medicine filled all the nooks and crannies he could wedge them into.
I fell victim to the same plight, unable to resist the lure of pretty pebbles, salt and pepper shakers in whimsical forms, teapots of humorous ilk, hats, unicorns and, of course, books. But at some point in the last few years the yearning to collect and to dust and to store so many items has faded. I’ve winnowed and decluttered and evaluated item after item in my home until I’ve reduced the contents to a degree that would have been unimaginable years ago. What’s left is what suits my life now and is a reflection of what brings me joy.
When I first started writing seriously I was certain I had no idea what I was doing so I fought my natural instinct to write with bloated abandon; collecting words and ideas like so many buttons in a cookie tin. I was certain my intuition must be wrong and my first manuscript finished the first draft at around 60,000 words. It was so lean pioneer provisioners could have sold it as jerky.
As time has passed I’ve become comfortable letting my collector out to play. In much the same way that three teapots seemed more appealing than one, I’ve discovered that often times I need to allow myself to say the same thing several times in just slightly different ways in a first draft. After that I winnow the offerings down to the one that best conveys my meaning or most compellingly moves the story along. I’ve found now that I am better at evaluating my physical environment, I trust myself to choose what is best for me in my work world as well.
But no matter how much I winnow in my work or my world I never can resist a pretty pebble.
Readers, do you consider yourself a collector? If so, what treasures do you have tucked away?