Look at the image above and tell me what you see – what you really see if you look close. Odds are I could get dozens of answers, but I’m willing to be I WON’T get the one I’m looking for. Now, even without breaking out a magnifying glass (or having been in my house before) you’ll find all of the following items on those shelves (and, no, to give you a clue, I’m not looking for specific author names or book titles with this question – this isn’t meant to be THAT difficult of a puzzle for you):
- Stuffed toys
- Old type-set tiles (if you actually said that you have incredible eyes…or you’ve been in my house, and I might be a little scared if I don’t know you)
Those are easy answers, though, and they aren’t answers stated by true writers. What do I see?
A million possible story ideas.
Okay, yes, there are hundreds of stories sitting right, there – I know that (and, yes, I have hundreds of books. I refuse to subscribe to that nonsense that you should own less than thirty books; that is absolute crap). What I’m talking about is the fact that each one of those books contains the possibility of sparking hundreds of ideas in and of themselves. Not the fact that each story is based on a story itself – we all know that there are no original stories – but the actual words themselves.
Every written word!
Crazy, right? It’s true, though! I have seen a word or phrase in a book and felt that shiver of inspiration go through me. In the past month, reading two different books, I have felt the spark for THREE different short stories from just a handful of WORDS! The words weren’t even integral to the plots of what I was reading! Something in the order they were arranged connected the right synapses in my writing brain, though, and BAM! Idea central!
It can be that simple if you stop and think about it. After all, writers and first and foremost READERS. We’re fascinated by words (if we weren’t we wouldn’t be writers). We’re drawn to words like magnets, and we focus on them everywhere around us. I have friends who came up with stories after seeing signposts along the road!
So before you do something insane like whittle your book collection down because some insane person thinks thirty is a rational limit (seriously?! Only thirty?!), think about what you could be sacrificing. There is inspiration potential lurking on those shelves, waiting to be found. If you give that up for the sake of…okay, I can’t think of any reason a person would sacrifice that kind of gold mine. Seriously, there is always somewhere you can stack up more books. Get rid of something you don’t need like extra shoes or clothes.