I know them well

When I can’t write — when I’m being paid by someone else to do what they want me to do — I can still think about my stories and make notes that get stuffed into my pocket for retrieval later.

What I have been pleased to find is that the littlest idea — for a scene, to make a character’s motivation more clear, to address a plot problem — will flow easily from my pencil onto the notepad. The reason is because I know my characters so well. I know just how Ann or Greg Finnegan will react in a situation, or what each may think about the topic at hand. The note just goes on and on as the idea smoothly presents itself to me, or perhaps as I create in my head exactly what my characters would say or do or think.

Some days my pocket bulges from the notes I’ve taken. Other days may pass without a single note being made. But when the idea comes, it just blossoms on the paper. I’m glad about that.

A long time ago in a different city from where I live now, I would often spend my lunch hours at a local library. There was usually a book on the shelf that I was reading on the installment plan. If it was still on the shelf when I got there each day, I’d pick up reading it where I had last stopped. Generally I would find whatever table had space for me and sit down. On a few occasions there was a man — probably a library regular since I saw him there a lot — who would sit at the other end of the table and talk quietly to himself. And he would scribble notes on small sheets of paper.

He was clearly agitated, but he disturbed no one, and he was as entitled as any other citizen to be there. But he couldn’t sit still. He might argue with himself for ten minutes or so, then he would dart up from the chair and walk quickly out of the library, driven by some internal demon only he knew about. When he did this, he always left his scribbled notes behind. And I always collected them. I have them somewhere in a file drawer, and I remember that they were generally incoherent, disconnected snatches of thought, deeply colored with paranoia.

I doubt that he was making notes for any novels he might have been working on, but sometimes I wonder if someone came upon the notes that I scribble when I can’t write, what might they think of my state of mind?

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