I Know it was Blue – Thoughts on Organizing Memories by Author Rosemary Lord

Rosemary Lord wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!
She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

I Know It Was Blue

I was de-cluttering. Anything to delay writing the next part of my new book. Many writers have clean, tidy fridges for this very same reason…

I was going through an old box of scraps of paper that needed purging. “Cary Grant: 11 am, Tuesday,” I had long ago written on the back of an envelope. As you do.

Then I picked up a tariff from the Hotel Aguadulce in Almeria, Spain. “Yul Brynner – top floor, Charles Bronson, Raquel Welch –” scribbled on the top. A tattered Boarding Pass LA – New York. The name ‘Richard Dreyfuss’ was in pencil. A metro ticket from Paris with Charles Aznavour’s name on it. My souvenirs all told a story.

Goodness, I realized, my writing has taken me all over the place. What fun. In those days I earned my living writing for various magazines, interviewing movie stars (the real sort) and writing about people in the film industry, especially Old Hollywood. A receipt from the Palm Bay Beach Club in Miami was next. Columbia Pictures had flown me there to interview Muhammad Ali and also James “Jimmy” Stewart. Both were making movies in Florida. I had my portable Olivetti typewriter, a small tape-recorder and a passport. ‘Have typewriter – will travel’ was my theme.

I’d forgotten about this part of my life. I remember I was almost always broke, as we were paid peanuts for such interesting work. But you usually got fed. That was a priority. Otherwise I lived on a diet of spaghetti (very cheap) with grated parmesan cheese.

After a while, racing from one appointment to another, running for a train somewhere, the typewriter got left at home. I had created my own short hand in which to hand-write my pieces. I still have the typewriter and a large box of tapes of those interviews. I realize that one day I should attempt to de-clutter these, too. Big sigh. Not sure if I could ever part with them or the stack of well-thumbed notebooks filled with quotes and notes.

Today – I harrumph – journalists have the ease of minuscule, assorted recording devises that even type up the spoken word. But I would not swap my ‘journalistic clutter’ or the memories of those struggles, frustrations, fun, exciting and sometimes dangerous adventures, for anything.

But I digress: the scraps of paper that I should be clearing out. Focus, Rosemary!

You see, I have a habit of writing notes on the nearest things to hand. Paper napkins, paper tablecloths, the most obvious. Old receipts, used envelopes are a favorite, too.

Friends are used to seeing me with an array of paper scraps on my desk as I pull together some semblance of a story or article. (You should see my desk right now. Please, no! At least I have a desk these days.)

I do have a good selection of notebooks – even beautiful, leather-bound books – with pages of eventually published pieces and several yet-to-be published stories. Yet, when my ever-busy mind comes up with another great idea, or a solution to a scene I am writing, the notebooks are not usually close enough. So I dig in my pockets and bags for anything to write on. My challenge is to collect those scraps of literary pearls and to transfer them to the notebooks and ultimately onto my computer – where I can cut-and-paste to my hearts’ content. I am getting much better, but still not efficient enough for my own demands.

Dare I ask my fellow bloggers and readers if they have any similar organizational challenges? Any ‘helpful hints’ are welcome! Or must I remain drowning in a sea of scraps of paper?

I love a quote from the late Professor Randy Pausch’s wise little book, The Last Lecture. Knowing he had not long to live, he wanted to develop a good filing system, in alphabetical order. But his wife, Jai, felt this way too compulsive. He told her:

“Filing in alphabetical order is better than running around and saying, ‘I know it was blue and I know I was eating something when I had it.”

I confess I still spend a lot of my time muttering to myself, “I know it was blue and I was eating something….” Help!!

14 thoughts on “I Know it was Blue – Thoughts on Organizing Memories by Author Rosemary Lord”

  1. I share your habit of scribbling notes on the backs of envelopes, receipts, or scraps of paper. Now I try to limit it to non-critical information, like “to-do” or shopping lists, but I misplace those as well. When you find the answer, please share it with me!


  2. I remember the times I had a great idea right as I was falling asleep, but I said to myself, “This is such a great idea; I will remember it in the morning.” Morning came and I couldn't remember the idea. Now there is a notepad and flashlight by the bed.

    The only thing I really want now is that Chippendale secretary in my bathroom while I am taking a shower, because I always get the best ideas when the water is running. My husband still says “no” to that idea. Oh well. Fun blog, Rosemary.


  3. What a life you've led, Rosie! I have an “idea” folder in which I (eventually) deposit those scraps of paper. I carry a few index cards (lighter than a notebook) and a pen in my purse and my car to capture those inspirations when I'm on the go. And for you, GB, check out “Aquanotes” at http://www.myaquanotes.com/


  4. I loved your “just talking to you” style of post. I felt as if I was there moving paper pieces around looking for that blue thing right with you. I certainly would NOT throw away those scraps or tapes from your Old Hollywold film star interviews. If you want to lose the space they take, I bet there would be plenty of people who would buy them.
    I usually keep a very thin (checkbook size) notebook in my purse or backpack for those quick thoughts or ideas, and bigger notebooks if I know I'll be hearing things I want to take notes on.
    My problem is that I am too eclectic – have too many irons in the fires – spread too thin. When an idea comes, it sometimes gets sequed into another project as something different.
    WHATEVER you do, Rosemary, GET BACK TO YOUR NOVEL(S)!


  5. It's so frustrating, isn't it, Miriam? I look with envy on those who neatly write everything in one modest notebook – and know where they left that notebook! I'll keep you posted on solutions…


  6. Gayle, we need something waterproof to write on and to write with! Because I, too, get great writing solutions while in the shower….


  7. Index cards: good, simple idea. Thanks, Bonnie. And I deleted my comment about the bronze guy, topless except for a bow-tie, waiting to take Gayle's dictation….


  8. Jackie, like you,I have so many irons in the fire. And now these souvenirs have given me an idea for yet another book! But I promise you, 'Lottie' is my current focus!


  9. Oh Rosemary, I don't have any helpful hints, but I loved your post. I can hear your voice in your posts (how that can be, I sure don't know), but it's wonderful. I'm reading this early in the morning–and wasn't very energetic, back to bed or?–and you've energized me to “go do!” Thank you for that. (on the organization part, my brain is a little too organized and structured and I've had to tell it to “fly away” and forget organization sometimes. Getting better. So interesting how we all think, view, and perceive. Great post.


  10. Why thanks, Mad. Maybe if I hung out with you more – some of your organizational & structured brain would rub off on me! Thanks for coming by….


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