Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Clutter Hound

by Michelle Gagnon

I want to start by apologizing for my missing post last week--especially since, as many of you know, there was a Flort on the line. Any and all complaints should be directed to customer service at, thanks to their annoying habit of lying repeatedly about sending a cable installation team to my house when no such team ever materialized (and rest assured, I sat on the porch and waited for hours at a stretch). It is truly astounding how bad their customer service is, which I'm guessing was the inspiration for their brand name.

But that's all in the past, and I'm pleased to announce that not only am I back online and able to follow critical breaking news such as the Michael Jackson memorial service and the Palin resignation, we also have a Flort winner!

Congratulations to Basil, whose used the IKEA product "UPPTACKA" as the inspiration for his coming of age story about a boy and his llama (the mountains are not as lonely as they seem).
I still laugh every time I read that, which makes it worth the cost of shipping a Flort to Alaska.
Honorable mentions are in order for James Scott Bell, Rob, Sue Ann Jaffarian- heck, you all did me proud, that was a fun exercise.

This week I'm still recovering from a truly brutal move, with highlights ranging from my husband coming down with norovirus, a painter nearly taking a header off my roof, my contractor losing my car keys (who puts a set of keys on the roof of a car, then drives off?) and other assorted dramas.

One thing that struck me, as I sifted through a drawer I haven't looked at in years, is the amount of clutter I've managed to accumulate. I have stacks of notebooks filled with notes from conference panels, classes, and the worst: page after page filled with ideas. After hearing Annie Lamott admonish an audience of writers once to "always carry a notebook, otherwise you'll forget all of your good ideas," I got in the habit of keeping a steno pad in my purse. And yes, I diligently jot down things that occur to me, whether they be seemingly brilliant three AM inspirations or something that struck me in line at Walgreens.

But the truth is, not once have I glanced back at and/or used any of those ideas.

So what do I do with these books? Are they worth saving, on the off chance that someday my idea pool dries up? Will I find anything worth using? Or will all these books just continue to sit in a drawer gathering dust? I'm wondering if I'm the only clutter hound out there...


  1. If I ever find my notebook drawer I'll be able to see if any of the millions of notes I've made over the years are worth referring to. I know it's around here somewhere...

  2. Michelle, consider what your future generations of family will think about when they discover those notebooks and read the thoughts you found so inspirational that you took the time to write them down.

    I know if my future grandchildren ever read some of my notes (or one short story in particular) they'd think I was some kind of closet, sadistic, sick and twisted, serial killer/terrorist/criminal mastermind. Makes me smile just thinking about that.

  3. Believe me, Michelle, you are NOT the only clutter hound. I found stuff that I never even knew I had when going through my things (and even worse, I STILL have them for whatever reason).

  4. Oh I keep all my notebooks - dating back to high school too (so that means I actually transported them here from Australia - how sad is that!) I also hang onto all my ideas like a hoarder. One day I'll use them all...maybe...

  5. It used to bother me that I didn;t have a notebook or recorder surgically attached to my wrist, to jot down every thought worth jotting down.

    Now I have computer files full of ideas and lines and situations to be used. I may have gone back and used one percent of them.

    About a year ago I read a quote from a well-known screenwriter (whose name escapes me) who said he figures he'll remember any idea worth pursuing, so he doesn't write anything down unless it pertains to his WIP. I'm good with that.

  6. Dang, I've got so many notebooks full of gibberish that I'm on the verge of cataloging them so I can find the right gibberish when I need it.

    But I do go back to them occasionally. But what I've found is that I notice stuff (and thus jot it down) that pertains to what I'm working on/thinking of currently so the ideas don't have much of a shelf life. But somehow it makes me feel better. As I've always said, self delusion is under rated.

  7. I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one! Wilfred, perhaps I should store the books with everything else that will horrify future generations. I hear there's a service that will comb through your belongings after death, removing anything too offensive before your family sees it. I'll send you the number.

    I think the WIP rule might be a good one for the future. After all, what do I really need these days aside from help on that (and, of course, coming up with blog posts : ) )

  8. Wow Michelle, I am so flattered to receive your Flort. Most women won't even show a guy their Flort, let alone give it to him. I...I...I think I'm going to cry. This is so beautiful.

    sniff, sniiiiiiiffff....snort.

  9. On the subject of note taking...

    A few years ago my grandfather, an inventor who lived in the Alaska bush, went the way of all men. As I cleaned out his office I found a number of notepads and drawings tablets full of stuff that dated back to the 40's. It was amazing.

    I even found a set of drawings illustrating something very similar to modern scuba equipment in a USMC notepad. Some of the nearby pages were dated 1942. This would date his apparatus to a year before Cousteau patented his first scuba regulator. Grandpa probably held on to the drawings till after the war, while Cousteau became a very wealthy French Dude.

    So keep your notes, if not for yourself for posterity. But yeah, take Wilfreds advice and purge the psycho bits if you don't want to scare your grandkids.