- May 2023
Patricia Highsmith's Cahiers by [[Jillian Hess]]
4/20/52[Keime.] Murder by mental nagging. Woman nags her husband to suicide, which he does so it looks like he has been murdered. Poison, which he puts in her desk drawer, her fingerprints on it.
Jillian Hess noted that Patricia Highsmith uses the German word Keime, meaning "germ of an idea" in her cahiers to indicate ideas which might be used in her novels or short stories.
July 7, 1942I want to take all my notebooks and read through them for important phrases — use them. It would be wonderful to do it on a weekend. Alone, in the quiet.
from Patricia Highsmith's diaries
this seems similar to Ralph Waldo Emmerson's journals/commonplaces where he collected interesting phrases for use in his writing. Here she's explicitly stating her desire to do this for her writing work.
The "Alone, in the quite." quote seems to mirror her appreciation and stated desire to be alone at home in the 1978 Good Afternoon interview.
Even three or four words are often worth jotting down if they will evoke a thought, an idea or a mood. In the barren periods, one should browse through the notebooks. Some ideas may suddenly start to move. Two ideas may combine, perhaps because they were meant to combine in the first place. —Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
I highly recommend notebooks for writers, a small one if one has to be out on a job all day, a larger one if one has the luxury of staying at home.
from Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
- writing practices
- note taking process
- writing process
- fleeting notes
- idea capture
- Patricia Highsmith
- writing advice
- note taking advice
- combinatorial creativity
Patricia Highsmith talks a bit about her writing process. She talks about her early family life and her current personal life, but doesn't mention her sexuality at all.
The tail end of the interview mentions the prevalence for murder within one's family. (When did this truism emerge within culture or at least within the crime space?)
Write down all these slender ideas. It is surprising how often one sentence, jotted in a notebook, leads immediately to a second sentence. A plot can develop as you write notes. Close the notebook and think about it for a few days — and then presto! you’re ready to write a short story. — Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks
quote is from Highsmith's Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
I love the concept of "slender ideas" as small, fleeting notes which might accumulate into something if written down. In saying "Close the notebook and think about it for a few days" Patricia Highsmith seems to be suggesting that one engage in diffuse thinking, passive digesting, or mulling rather than active or proactive thinking.
She also invokes the magic word "presto!" (which she exclaims) as if to indicate that magically the difficult work of writing is somehow no longer difficult. Many writers seem to indicate that this is a phenomenon, but never seem to put their finger on the mechanism of why it happens. Some seems to stem from the passive digestion over days with diffuse thinking, with portions may also stem from not starting from a blank page and having some material to work against instead of a vacuum.
From Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995 (Swiss Literary Archives)