I coined a phrase! The word ‘loremonger’ popped into my mind the other day. I was thinking about my tendency to do absurd amounts of research when I start something new. My house is still stuffed with books, even after a steady effort over the past three years to downsize, and I was pondering whether I use this as a form of procrastination.
Then I realized that I generally act on new information. For instance, I had a bizarre whim, truly out of nowhere, to start running in the fall of 2010. I was terrible at it. Couldn’t run around the block on my first day and barely had the breath to cuss out my husband. My distance pace is 12-minute miles on a good day. Ah, but. Penguin that I was, I huffed and puffed my yardage, while continually studying running lore. I read websites and blogs and handbooks. By the time I ran my marathon, I felt intellectually prepared to do an ultra, and my friends were suggesting that I write my own running book. Without the support of all this research material, I doubt I would have kept going past my first week.
I started learning to cook in a serious way long after I realized I had accumulated over a hundred cookbooks. I sat at the dining table and stared down my collection and realized that illiterate peasants over the millennia had attained better cooking skills than me by actually cooking. I was taught that my great-grandmother always said, “If you can read, you can do anything,” and I certainly had the materials. It wasn’t long before I could prepare a decent meal, and not much longer than that before I was cooking for groups of 12-20 on a weekly basis. I finally hit the point when I could look at a spread of ingredients and make something nice out of them without a recipe. At that point, I started feeling like I could pare down my cookbook collection.
It took years of reading organizing and time-management and decluttering books before I understood that the name for people like me was “chronically disorganized,” and that I wasn’t anymore. Then I went through a productivity binge, until I started being productive and realizing that I was no longer encountering information I hadn’t already internalized. I also read stacks and piles of nutrition and fitness books before I reached the point where I am now, one of the tiny margin of people who routinely eats the recommended amount of micronutrients. Now I’m continuing to work on minimalism, since there’s still an imbalance between my vision of myself and my surroundings. About a year ago, I started studying languages again after a long hiatus, and now I’m in the “drinking from the firehose” stage of serious loremongering.
Literacy is a powerful tool. An entire lifetime would not be long enough to read through a list of mere titles of all the books and articles in print. We have the Internet, the most impressive invention of all time, and it’s chock full of free material explaining everything from windsurfing to how to preserve a shrunken head. Any common problem can most likely be tackled with readily available information. The trick is to look it up and start processing it with an aim to using it for some interesting purpose.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.