Piles of empty meat trays. Boxes of broken door knobs. Bicycles piled in a tangled mess. These are common sites on the show Hoarders. As voyeuristic as it is, I have watched this show and marveled – from a sadly superior seat of judgment – at people’s inability to let go of things. However, when I’m honest with myself, I realize I hoard, too, maybe not meat trays, but essay ideas and book concepts. I hoard those like a dragon hoards gold. But Hoarders has taught me a few of things about writing.

3. Don’t hoard your ideas. Use them. Write them out. Share them freely with people. We may not have a chance later, and the story may not be relevant later. The time to give our words is always now. As Annie Dillard said, “Give it all. Give it now.”

2. Don’t resist help. So often, I want to just “do it myself.” I want to resist critique or not take the wisdom of other writers because, well, it’s easier to just do it my way, to keep all my little hoarded words on the page just as I put them. But when I do this, I miss out on so much more – the glorious simplicity of a basic sentence, the strength of a single adjective, the glory of a third less words.

1. More will always come. It’s easy to think that if we give it all, if we take critique and cut a page, that we’re losing something, that we will be lessened by the giving. But this is never true. “It’s in giving that we receive.”

So let’s unpack our hoarded stories – put them on blogs or in letters or in chats with friends. Let’s not fear things will be stolen from us or that we won’t be able to find what we need when we need it. We always have everything we need, if we trust that.

What kinds of things do you hoard? Why?