Books on my Lawn

I am tired.

I did not write one thing today.

I also roasted a chicken.

Do not roast a chicken in a hot house. It makes the house hotter. Who knew?

On Saturday we cleaned out our basement. I mean we moved out all the boxes and boxes of books onto the back lawn. We moved here last September and we are finally getting to that one room where I shoved everything that had no place. Including my boxes and boxes of books. This house, our old new house, has no built in shelves. Our last house had shelves. And shelves and shelves and shelves. Heaven.

Here? None.

We started to unpack the books and there was no where to put them.

So I hauled them out so I could think better.

Right now, three days later, those boxes are still out there. Waiting. In the dark. With the deer.  Waiting for me to put them away. Waiting for me to bring them in from the cold. The hot. The hose. The boys. All my books (almost all) are in peril and here I am in my bed complaining about being tired.

Do you throw away books? Donate them? keep them and keep them and keep them because they are books and you don’t throw away books or donate them or sell them or do anything but keep them?

I was trying to figure out what to do with them.

My brain does not organize. I can lift stuff, move stuff, vacuum stuff. I cannot figure out where things should go. What’s the most practical place to put boxes and boxes of books until I get some shelves?

The garage? Move them back into the spare room? The shed? I asked my husband.

Just tell me where to put things and I will, he said.

That’s the problem, i have no idea where to put them. Should we get new carpet? Why are the baby toys in the Christmas box? What were we just talking about?

Sometimes I think I would be the cleanest house person in the world if my brain worked right. If I put things away and was all organized and everything had a place and things had labels and I folded my underwear. I would be so clean because I am always cleaning. Cleaning cleaning cleaning. But I never get anywhere.

I am too distracted. Too impulsive. Too scattered.

I think about my writing. Is this how I am? I think yes. Is this bad? I think yes. And no. What if I had a different brain. What if I could write with an outline? What if I knew where things were going and why they were going to go there? Would it be easier? Do most writers have scattered lives with tricycles tied up with climbing rope all over their yard and boxes and boxes of books in their garden? Will I one day have cabbage patch kids riding big wheels in my flower beds?

I know we all have our own process but sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it to try to train your way to a different process. I mean wouldn’t it be nice to clean something and have it stay cleaned? To know exactly where the scissors are when you need them? To start a novel knowing the end before you know the beginning? I wonder.

Please don’t take my books. They are helpless.


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18 responses to “Books on my Lawn

    Be careful leaving your books outside.
    I can’t tell you how many times we did that when I was growing up.
    We lost a lot of books.
    even that complete encyclopedia set. It was big. and lovely.
    but it died. in the weathering peril of mother nature.

    If your brain were different, I would be short two of my favorite books. Just keep doing what you do, Ann Dee. And I’ll work on figuring out what my process is.

  2. i have twelve boxes of books. i go through them and try to figure out what to get rid of. i usually pick one or two and give them to DI. one or two does not make for less boxes. but i can’t part with my books.

    i liked your post today. it’s exactly how i’m feeling in my life right now. i cannot seem to organize and get rid of things, but i am moving to a smaller location. where will i put all these things?

    my cluttered house reflects my cluttered brain. my novel does, too. random chapters everywhere. but give it ten minutes. five. at least one sentence that’s new. that’s my goal every day.

    • Shar, I can’t imagine. you truly have to make big book decisions. And ahhhh getting ready to move? My head hurts for you.

      and i love that, at least one sentence that’s new every day. I’m going to try that.

  3. Once, when I was ill, my things were packed up for me and tarped out in the rain of Northern California and then stored and then pretty much stolen.

    And that was just one instance. I have moved around and lost books, lots of them.

    And so I rarely buy books. But they seem to come into my house, and I foster them, and care fo them, and lose them, or lend them, or donate them, or return them to the library.

    And more show up.

    I just inherited a collection of antique books. And now I have entered the anxiety of losing a book that was a first edition and has character and value. And I will lose them one way or another.

    And I wonder if we can ever contol anything so powerful as the concentration of a writer’s mind, distilled into ink and pages. Even if we read really closely and keep the book safe so we can read it again, is the book a solid state artifact?

    If Annie dillard had her say, she would tell us that writers simply tap the Maples of the Forest for thier syrup and our stories are the effort to get at the heart of the tree and take from its essence the taste of truth and we spill the syrup, and burn it, and yes, lose it in the end.

    But as writers, we have been to the forest, and fed off the trees, and the life then welled up from the ground into our minds is refected in any book we have.

    But they are not artifact, just artiface. The snail trail of truth that was discovered.

    And so I think if the books get rained on, there will be more.

    As for an organized mind, that is an oxymoron. The outliners and labelers of the world are firmly swimming upstream in DENIAL.

    How about signing the books and telling why the book was so important to you as a writer, or mom, or whatever. Then have all your other celebrity author friends do the same to their boxes of books. Then give them to Sam Weller to sell online for a charity or have them given out at local schools, or make a list of all the titles and see if a hospital of jail could use any of them.

    Or build lots of Ikea shelves tomorrow for the time being.

    Don’t you love how guys always want to fix things?

    • Amy

      Love it when you get all deep Neil. It boggles my mind, but I love it. Then I think about how shallow I am.

      • Comparisons are unhealthy, right?

        Besides, if Henry David Thoreau is the gateway drug for deep thought, Annie Dillard is like pure black tar heroin. I referenced Dillard for an anchor in the deep. I like shallow too.

        Did you notice how Ann Dee Karate chopped her own head with the internal dialog about, new carpet and toys in the Christmas things? Brilliant, deep, and we didn’t even notice. I had to reread that part.


    • You are deep, Neil. And it’s true, why do I hold onto these books? Why is it so hard to give away? And I love Annie.

  4. Amy

    I was going to say go to IKEA. They have miles of shelves.

    I don’t get rid of books. I don’t loan them either. I’ve lost too many. I loaned you Alice, but I knew it’d be safe.

    I am a selfish book hoarder, and completely unrepentant.

    Don’t ya’ll read your good books over and over?

  5. erika

    Books are my family: brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, odd uncles. Right now the relatives are in storage. We had to move west in a hurry last year and are in temporary housing for a while, so they are in what we call The Pod: a container in a warehouse under a viaduct west of I-15. They sit (is that the right verb? Lie?Wait? Sleep? Whisper?) there in the hot darkness, I miss them.

    The only books I can give away are my husband’s: business books, way out there New Age texts, and Clive Cussler Crap.

    Little do my biological children know they will soon (leap of faith to use that word!) have a new sibling. My very own book will be my next child.

    Anybody out there using dreams to help them write? I have asked that the conflict of my novel be reveled to me while I sleep but so far all I’ve received are car crashes and me breaking into the home of an old high school friend.What does it mean?

    • ha ha ha ha ha. I love that you were breaking into a home of an old high school friend. Dreams never work for me. I know some (angle) use dreams to help them with their writing. I would be in big fat deep trouble if I ever tried to use my dreams for anything.

      And books are my family too.

  6. Michelle

    I have this problem, only I have my own collection and my family thinks I am already a hoarder. I don’t like this reputation–its not fair to say, I like to have a hobby!

    We always yard sale everything. But I think my favorite thing was the standard man response “Tell me where to put things and I will” ahahahaha. That made my day.

  7. You were roasting a chicken. I was on a motorcycle with my husband. 100 degrees. My legs extra hot next to the engine. We stopped at a river. I made him dunk me. He didn’t protest. I still have water in my left ear. I don’t like things in my ear.

    I need more shelves. I need a big one downstairs. The two are upstairs. But I read downstairs. So that means a big box of books overflowing in my front room, kind of hidden. I need the best books to be on hand. Ann Dee, you’re in my kinda hidden box.

    Organization… maybe this will explain me… I have a hard time figuring out what to wear when my clothes are hanging up. I see better when they are laid out.
    The end.

  8. You are so nice to let your husband have a motorcycle. And then to get on it with him. What a sweet wife.

    Oh. Yes. So much better for things to be all over the room, entire house, yard. No confusion. Always reliable.

  9. I don’t mind giving some books away – not the ones I’ll read over and over, but the ones that were given to us that in over 10-15 yrs. we’ve never picked up. If we aren’t going to bless our own lives with them, I feel maybe someone else will. But my husband…. oh no. We might want to read those some other day. There were so many books, we couldn’t use our home library (a room we put wall to wall shelves in). There were books everywhere, and it broke my heart to see books being misused. So I boxed them up and told my husband he could put them in the garage. Instead, he found the perfect place under the stairs – they’re protected from the elements, but out of harms way of little feet running over them. Yes, I think he was afraid of a hose finding it’s way into a forbidden area too.

    I think it’s fabulous you know your end before your beginning. My brain is still *discovering* mine.

    Oh yeah – and I think you’re so cool. Every time I want to take a break, I come to see what’s up at Throwing Up Words, and you and Carol always have something I can relate to. 🙂

  10. Oh AnnDee, I feel your pain. Right now I have about twelve boxes of books in storage, because we didn’t have room to move them into our place when we got married. Not as many books fit when you have to have places for kitchen tables, couches, clothes, art supplies… you know. And then I see a book somewhere (at the store, in a purse, at the library) and I think, “I know I have that book… somewhere.”

    And I just get more books. Like my budding new collection of contemporary YA lit: Feed, The House of the Scorpion, Speak, Living Dead Girl, Sweethearts, The Chosen One, Glimpse, and Everything Is Fine. Since Jennifer said we need to read 100 books in our genre, I have 92 more to go. I need to find someone to borrow books from….

    Books are priceless, fine things. We treasure stories. We revel in words.

    I love having friends who love books as much as I do.


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