Sweet Materialism

I admit that I like stuff. I wouldn’t say that I’m trapped by my possessions, or anything  – at least not more so than anyone else. Still, I do consider myself a materialist.

A materialist is not a consumerist, though. I don’t like having stuff just for the sake of having stuff. In fact, I really like getting rid of stuff. I love going through old things and finding stuff I can throw out, donate, or list on eBay. The little clean spot that stuff leaves behind is something I treasure. I like having nice stuff. Just a few things, but of good quality. Things that last forever. (A lot of my wardrobe is thrift-store chic. It’s amazing what sorts of nice things people get rid of, and how handy friends with sewing machines are.)

I spent this past weekend neck-deep in a storage unit, going through stuff that got lost in my last move. Some of it was stuff I had actually forgotten about completely; it went straight into the donation pile, because honestly, if I never missed it, I didn’t need it in the first place.

IMG_2042Some of it, though, I was completely thrilled to have back, like my writing box and my other deerstalker. The writing box contains my dip pens, inks, wax, and seals – and yes, I do use them. In fact, I used to use them quite often, before the storage unit ate them. They’re high quality, foolproof, and quite inexpensive to use if you know how to make your own ink.

But the heart of materialism isn’t the stuff itself so much as the feel of the stuff. I love my dip pens because of the feel of them. Write by candlelight for bonus points. I feel more creative when I dip a brass nib into a pot of burgundy ink. I have no substantive evidence that my writing is any better with a dip pen than it is with a ballpoint, but I feel like it is, and I’m usually happier with finished pieces that started with a dip than those that started with a click.

That’s my general attitude toward life. Why settle for function when one can also have form? (Cost permitting, of course.) More importantly, why follow the form that’s popular when it’s not the form that feels right? I have plenty of jeans-and-baggy-tee-shirt days, but sometimes I have an Argyll-and-Oxfords-day, because I need to step back in time a ways. They say you should dress for the job you want. Can I help it if I want to be JRR Tolkien? I’ve been accused of living a never-ending game of dress-up, but when it’s been a rough week, and writer’s block is gnawing on me, and I desperately need to feel like an author, tweed and nice pens are my placebo.

And now I’m curious about other people’s stuff. What sort of things build the atmosphere you like most?

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14 thoughts on “Sweet Materialism

  1. Writers have their talismans like any other person. We’re not machines, we don’t work at a hundred percent efficiency nor at the drop of a hat. Writing in the deeper sense of the word, to me, is a kind of magick. Like ritual, you need the right stuff to make it work right. Sometimes it’s a nib pen with a pottle of Indian ink (you lucky swine), but for me it’s my wall of awesome and the right music. My wall of awesome is all of the pictures artist friends and fans have drawn and painted of my characters and the bits that I’ve done for myself over years. I need a spark of joy to write and my characters in art form sitting on the wall in front of me does that, and the massive star map on the right hand wall, and the A2 sized paper covered in my series plotting on the wall behind me–all sparks of joy. With the right music, I can write anywhere, but I prefer my office with my images and my characters.

    • Hah! Did you call me a swine? Considering the state of my house right now, that might be an insult to pigs.
      Your wall of awesome sounds awesome, indeed! I’ve got some artist friends, as well, but few of them will be coerced into reading my books. (I want to see a photo of your awesome wall!)

      • XD Only swine in the context of being very very lucky to own such beautiful writing implements. I’ve always wanted a proper nib pen and ink, and wax seals and swanky paper with which to write beautiful letters to people!

        I’ll post the pictures of the wall of awesome on dA and prod you with a link. ❤ Give me a day or two.

  2. In my house we have a lot of mounted animals. Most, like the swan, the polar fox, the puffin and the hare, reside in the living room. The otter and a squirrel are in the basement living room and I have a mounted woodpecker in my room.
    I love these, even though they are dead animals. They add a naturey, outdoorsy feel to my surroundings, something I like, because despite the fact that I spend a lot of time on the computer I am an outdoorsy person.
    I also have an old, worn stuffed dog I sleep with at night and bring with me when I go somewhere else for the night.

    As for writing stuff, I get inspiration at random moments and can write almost anywhere and anytime, usually on my phone. But my phone notes are hardly of the same quality as my finished written-on-laptop-works…

    • I like mounted animals as well. I know a lot of people find them creepy or offensive, but I think they’re a different form of respect for the dead. They’re beautiful in life, and beautiful in death, as well. (Well, if the taxidermy is done right… I’ve seen some that really were creepy.)
      My family are subsistence hunters. We harvest whitetail deer, take everything edible, and sometimes save the skull for a mount. They serve as reminders that our lives depend on the world around us, and we’re responsible for keeping everything working the way it’s supposed to.
      We don’t have any puffins! It sounds pretty cool.

      I carry a notebook, because my phone was $9 from Wal Mart six years ago, and I’m lucky if it’ll make a phone call. xD

      • All our creatures (including the snake, I think the English name for it is adder) are very well taxidermied (ifthat word doesn’t already exist I just invent it :P), so they’re very pretty.
        We buy an entire elk calf a year. It comes as finished meat packages of all kinds and two bags of bones, which we boil. Not hunters ourselves, but we get the vast majorityf of our meat from one. I like that.
        Puffins are among the most hilarious birds on the planet. Watching one desperately trying to take off, chasing wavetops and beating its wings in a futile attempt at flight, is one of the most entertaining sights I have ever seen. And they’re pretty, too.

        I could never manage with a notebook. I do editing, revising, adding and spellchecking far too much for hand-written documents to be practical for me.
        Sounds like it’s time you got a new one, then 😉

  3. Since the writer (i.e. you) creates reality out of the ethereal ether — so to speak — it seems reasonable to conclude that the writer (i.e. you) should manipulate the “stuff” of the material world to create the concrete reality most desirous. We fill our brains (if we are truly conscious) with what we choose, so it should be the same in the material world around us. This is why writer’s rooms — no matter the best intentions — generally look like a grenade was recently detonated therein. Good stuff, MRG…

    • Hey hey hey, DKM, I just got my room reasonably tidy. Or at least, the grenade detonated therein was a very small one. ;D

      That said, I am a firm believer in the notion that organization indicates a personality too lazy to look for things, or a mind not sharp enough to remember where the things are.

      • Intelligent people are stackers — they use the medieval notion of the cathedral of the mind to store things within the logistical mindspace of their working area — each stack is a representative knowledge base — you are a freaking AI unit without even being aware of it. Besides, chaos is simply inspiration awaiting interpretation. Now, if I could just find my damn car keys…

  4. 1) Plants. There’s something about nature that leaves me space to breathe, no matter how stressed I am. I’d leave the windows open night and day if I didn’t live in a fairly chilly climate. I am fighting my very natural black thumb with all the resources the Internet can provide me.
    2) Books. Okay, this is obvious/ducking the question with the obvious, but as far as creating ambiance goes, I need need need at least one bookshelf in the room.
    3) Candles. I rarely remember to light them/have space to light them given the books & the plants, but I’m so relaxed by the scent and the tiny flame.

    In terms of writing & materialism, I’m much too haphazard to enjoy writing with fancy pens. There’s an elegance and a patience there that goes counter to my process — I write, delete, jump from this idea to that, interrupt my own thoughts and rework as I go. Typing allows me to write quickly, excise, save the excision, and rewrite in the same spot. I usually only write full scenes longhand if I’m utterly stymied by a certain passage.
    I do, however, keep a notebook handy for brief ideas/brainstorming/most recently scene sketches & plot arcs. Ballpoint pens, but in color, so that I can match my writing to my mood (and implement a sort of organizational system if I’m trying to come up with an entire plot). I have a really nice one with a red leather cover that I just filled up. I got it free from my work and I’m resisting the impulse to grab another one from the supply closet (more than one of the same notebook is boring).

  5. Cookbooks! And my favorite wine glass! And my old, worn, handwritten recipes from family and friends! These are a few of my fav-o-rite things! When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad…… You know the rest!

  6. I definitely understand the *feel* of things.

    I, particularly, have a thing for journals. I have so many empty notebooks that I will likely never fill, but there’s just something that clicks in the back of my head when confronted with a nice leather, hand-bound book of pages.

    The trade off is, of course, that I feel overly critical of anything I might put into them as whatever it is will never be as good as the potential of what could be in there.

    • I used to collect really nice journals, too, until I realized they were too nice for me to ever write in any of them. Then I collected journals of marginal quality, until I realized I would never be able to fill all of them. Now I have piles of journals everywhere.

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