I’ve written here before about my reliance on my little analog tape recorder. It is my constant companion in bed, on walks, in the car. A frightening amount of whatever gold tumbles out of my head is entrusted to mysterious machine-guts and a tiny strip of vinyl. It is the first stop on the way to transposing that promising, precious metal into written notes (early in a book’s life) or into the keyboard (for works in progress).

I need my little helper; I rely upon it—to help me hang onto what is most fleeting and irreplaceable. Which made the episode of night-before-last all the more horrifying.

The recorder failed me.

Notes for this book. And the next one. Important ones. Secrets revealed. Falling-sleep thoughts. Under-the-covers musings in the middle of the night. Waking revelations. A lovely immersion; some solid clues to making the final polish gleam; some fluid passages that sang. Substantial, valuable stuff.

I sat down in the morning ready to transcribe.


The “Record” switch hadn’t done what it was meant to, despite new batteries and a perfectly serviceable tape. Press the buttons, speak; press a button and play back. Simple. But no. No response from my tapey lifeline.

Like the notebooks I carry with me everywhere when I’m freefall thinking, like the computer that never leaves me when the book is nearing completion, the stuff that comes out of my head in the quiet of night can rarely be duplicated—nuances, constructs, phrases, cues…like dreams, written down while still warm; thoughts that almost always prove themselves worthy in the light of day. Last night’s stuff, just gone. Smoke.

Okay. Not a total-total loss. Three notes remained in my head. Three I got to keep. But I can only wonder what else escaped me in that epic mechanical fail. I hope that it’s still up there, playing hide-and-seek among the synapses. I hope that it will turn up eventually, like buried treasure in a new-plowed field.

Worst thing is that now, every time I hit “Record”, I’ll worry about what else I might be about to lose.

Where’s my quill pen and papyrus when I really need it?