Becoming a Better Writer: Thrifting

So on my poetry blog I wrote about how thrifiting is a great way to discover local lit and/or find new poetry pics on a shoestring budget in order to keep oneself reading (which is always one of the best ways to become a better writer!) And while I have found plenty of cheap fiction while thrifting as well (The Red Tent, Trickster’s Choice, The Jane Austen Book Club, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime) I feel like I go to thrift stores for an entirely different reason as a fiction author.

Thrift stores are full of just an amalgamation of different things, ranging from the hilariously old, to the vintage-ly chic; from the nostalgic, the not-so-long-ago to the downright bizarre. I especially notice this when I go down those aisles that old all of the small house decor aisles. There are just shelves and shelves of old porcelain dolls in Irish dresses, wooden clocks with doves carved into the sides, candle holders in the form of little angels praying, old carvings of blessings that are now considered old-timey, statues of Jesus next to little glass milkmaids with their jug half-broken out of their tiny hands.

Going thrifting as a fiction author, I like to find at least one item, whether or not I buy it, and cement it in my mind. I may never have this specific item in my actual stories, but it’s a good way to practice writing and creating descriptions for things that aren’t as commonplace as, lets say, a bench or a house’s living room. It prepares the brain to populate characters’ rooms with knick knacks rather than just furniture, which can in turn illuminate more of the character’s personality than if you just sat down and described them straight out. Another good practice is taking one of these knick-knacks, say the little glass milkmaid, and writing a short story, even a flash piece, that surrounds her. What about a story about how her jug got broken? Was it an argument between lovers? Husband and Wife? (Wife and wife?) Was it a child who accidentally broke it and spends a whole day trying to hide it? Was it a friend who broke it out of spite when their other friend betrayed them? Is the story told in the moment, or from the perspective of a third friend observing, or of the first friend when they are old and their granddaughter brings them this milkmaid they bought at a thrift store?

When the creative juices just aren’t flowing, consider going to a thrift store! The practice (and the cheap books you’ll most likely pick up on the way) can be worth it!


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