I had some time on my hands on Saturday, so I started weeding out my files. My biggest challenge is I save too much paper. Most things I keep are pearls of wisdom I don’t want to forget. Some articles remain unread. I guess the subject matter looked interesting, so I set it aside for a day when I had more time. That day has not dawned yet but it might.
First into the recycling bin were newspaper clippings and magazine articles I had squirreled away for research while writing my novels. Then went old drafts of my manuscripts and a list of how to find things out, dated 8/27/91. The Internet makes the list irrelevant. For example, one of the questions was: Where do you search to find what a holding pen at a county jail looks like? The suggested source of information was “Ask friends.” I don’t know about you but other than James O, I don’t have too many friends who know what a holding pen looks like. Besides, now you can probably use Google Earth to peek through a window and see for yourself.
As I am wont to do while throwing things out, I paused to read a few pages before sentencing them to some landfill. This is always my downfall because each note jars a memory, and too many papers worm their way back into my files.
For example, I found a note card that read, “Plot carries action. Sub-plot carries theme.” That could be helpful some day. However, on the back of the card was something more intriguing—two names I plucked from the Montevideo, Uruguay telephone book when I was there in June of 1994. Both share a family name on my mother’s side. Why did I look in the telephone book for possible relatives? Did I suspect I had kin living in South America and Uruguay of all places? Was it merely a parlor game or a germinating plot for an international thriller? I kept the note because I had a great time in Uruguay and someday I may need to know the month and year I was there. Plus, there may be a thriller in my future and the note could be an important clue.
Some sage writing advice I found scrawled on a piece of yellow lined paper:
When you use a “thing” to trigger a memory:
- Smell is the strongest stimulus. It goes directly to the brain.
- Second best is sound.
- Sight is the weakest stimulus.
Here are some notes I took in a 2003 Pasadena Left Coast Crime presentation given by Jack Trimarco, former FBI agent and polygraph expert.
- People lie when they don’t have to
- A liar takes more time to answer questions. A pause creates an opportunity to formulate an answer (read lie). Liars may also answer the question with a question or repeat the question to stall.
- People don’t cry dry unless there is no emotion
- It takes 260 pounds of cement to sink a 120-pound woman in the ocean
Here are three inspirational quotes from my files:
“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
“To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with our work.” —Sister Mary Lauretta
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” —Thomas Edison
Here’s another jewel. On 2/14/99, I printed an e-mail from Laura. I’m not sure who Laura is but I enjoyed her sense of humor enough to keep her correspondence for ten years. I recently found the same information on the Internet along with a humorous quiz, but if I don’t keep the hard copy I may forget that I want to read it again. Here are a few items on her list:
Old and new concerns for people of the baby boom generation:
Then: Long hair
Now: Longing for hair
Then: Acid rock
Now: Acid reflux
Then: Hoping for a BMW
Now: Hoping for a BM
Then: Getting out to a new, hip joint
Now: Getting a new hip joint
After obsessing over the disposition of Laura’s e-mail—Keep? Toss?—I decided to take a breather from paper purging. When it comes to memories you don’t want to eliminate too many at a time.
What are you saving that you can’t bear to part with?