"A thing is still a thing no matter what you place in front of it."I like to imagine that if I could remember what I was making notes about, it would be clever or, at the very least, deeply felt. I'm almost certain it was not. I use notebooks indiscriminately and unfaithfully, dating entries at whim, littering them with post-it notes, newspaper clippings, and the tattered dregs of fashion magazines ("What Surrounds a Legend?" asks a fragment of the New York Times. "A 3,000-Pound Gilt Frame."). I mostly don't use them, except to write in, drafting stories and essays and interviews straight from beginning to end. I am not a habitual note taker, except in an academic setting (in which case my notes are minute and color-coded), and I rarely refer to the ones I commit to paper once I've finished writing them down.
"Why are people always so happy when they collide with someone from the same place?"
From the notebook next to my bed: "DO YOU WANT TO LIVE FOREVER?"The thought of composing from notes seems romantic. There must be satisfaction in building something from the accretion of thoughts had over a certain period of time. An assurance that what you're working on is strung along a consistent theme, something tested and engraved on your brain by the repetition of picking it up and putting it down again.
I enjoy making notes. I persist in keeping a piece of paper and a pen tucked into the pocket of my purse that contains inviolable necessities. Lip balm. Cash. Paper. Pen. I like the act of transferring some thought into words, or the comfort of copying down an interesting item in the belief that I will then never lose it to my own forgetfulness. I have notebooks that are composition workhorses and I have notebooks (a very few) that are only repositories. It's a pleasure to pick up those latter ones after abandoning them for months or years to read cryptic fragments, their meaning usually forgotten, or shuffle through bits of paper, whose selection for preservation is usually baffling. But, for the most part, they feel like leftovers, and while the details that piqued my interest may still be discernible, their allure was consumed in the moment of meeting.On a piece of Hello Kitty notepaper the exact shape of a dollar bill: "Cameroon, Africa. In 1986, the great lake Nyos (a name that means "good" in Mmen and "to crush" in Itangikom) turned red. The hue was a precursor to an explosion and a fountain of water 262 feet tall caused by pent-up gases deep beneath the surface of the lake. Limnologists (scientists who study lakes) have explained that the equatorial location of Cameroon, with its constant temperatures, enabled the layers of water to remain undisturbed by natural shifting caused by changing water temperatures in places of greater climate variation."
A clipping from Smithsonian Magazine: "Another phenomenon of the ballet world that fascinated him was the presence of a number of men in top hats and fur-collared overcoats who were permitted to pay court to the dancers in the foyer de la danse (a kind of greenroom), as long as they took out a subscription for three seats a week."I've never really been the kind of writer who can reanimate her notes and make them run together in a wholly satisfying collage. I have to worry at something in my head and, if I write it down in notes, it's like the entire thing has already been written, and where's the charm in doing it again? Maybe I'm just out of practice. Maybe I'm just shockingly lazy and the single fell swoop (even if this swoop is achieved in slow motion) is the only way I can fool myself into getting something done--beginning, middle, end.
An inexplicable description of a clown act that I never saw: "He had a long white lance, which he dropped. He had a sleek silver sword with which he skewered little flower wreaths and juggled them until they were sliced all to pieces. His armor, which was made of paper, fell away and all he wore were flannel pajamas."