The Writer’s Junk Drawer

When my writing loses direction and momentum, the easy first response is frustration. A few days of this often leads to Keyboard Avoidance Syndrome. K.A.S. can go on for a while. K.A.S. is easy, just pick up that remote, push a button, and catch up on the previous season of Casual, Bosch, and whatever suggestion pops up on the Netflix splash page. K.A.S. inevitably leads to malaise, which, without any effort, mutates into shamefully indulgent self-pity. Oh, poor pitiful me, writing is easy for anyone else! (Insert retching sound here.) Occasionally it leads to interesting exercises to shut up this whiner and kick his ass back into the real world where “buck up, little slugger” is an appropriate response.

I have a “junk” drawer. I call it that, but it’s not really junk. It’s a drawer full of notes I’ve scribbled on anything, from receipts to fast food napkins. There are articles and advice columns torn from actual newspapers. It also contains a small collection of mini composition notebooks. I carry one with me all the time. Except in the shower, of course. There are more of these than I recall completing. Over the years I’ve filled the notebooks with character name ideas, title possibilities, random thoughts, and things I’ve heard or seen. And random dinner menu ideas. Not sure why I put food ideas in these, but I did.

I was carrying one of these notebooks when I crossed the border from Canada to the USA a few years ago. In a case of mistaken identity, or more likely the extreme exuberance of the border patrol thinking they were going to break up the monotony of the day by capturing a violent fugitive, my wife and I were cuffed and thoroughly searched. (I’m not of the same race as the fugitive, but why let pesky details like that get in the way?) When we were permitted to go back to our vehicle, my wallet was on the front seat with the contents spread out around it. Among the Papa Murphy’s coupons and insurance cards, was my notebook. As we drove away, I contemplated what they must have thought if they read the notebook. One of the pages near the back had only three words, scrawled rather large: “The fart bet.” I can’t say anything about that note, except you should feel sorry for my poor wife. The initial horror at the thought of them reading it changed to laughs as I decided they deserved it for needlessly putting us through the ordeal. Ok, there’s proof some of it is junk. Though some of it is gold.

The material isn’t necessarily the benefit. I sat down today and decided to go through the drawer. Desperation. I sorted. I organized. I read. I laughed. I was glad my desk locks.


Not the lock, but the K.A.S. leaving the room. It was gone, and all I wanted to do was write. The fear, or spineless avoidance was gone. No matter how worthless those little notebooks and bits of paper would seem to any sane person, the “junk” lead to this. Writing. And as cliché as it is, it’s like riding a bike. Today I’ll embrace the cliché, but only because I’m on the bike again.

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