Writing and Jellybeans

The jellybean dispenser on the credenza by my desk was given to me by my son and daughter-in-law years ago. My grandchildren fall over themselves to fill it whenever they can. They think it’s interesting that an old broad like me eats jellybeans and does so until she gets an upset tummy. They’re surprised I don’t know any better.  I do. But why spoil their fun? They warn me that I shouldn’t eat all the candies at once. I tell them I won’t, but they’re not convinced. Apparently my need for, and ability to devour, all things sweet is the stuff of family legend.

My son tells anyone who cares to listen that as a child he was deprived of desserts, candy and chocolate (anything sweet). I don’t remember buying those sorts of things then. He says he saw packages of liquorice, jellybeans, and gummy bears come into the house, but by the time he thought to ask for any of it, only the wrappers remained, hidden at the back of a drawer. I usually shrug when he tells these stories. He laughs.

I reiterate that I don’t remember it quite the same way. But he gives me that look he does sometimes, the one that says, you’re not fooling anyone. I shrug in reply as though I have no idea what he’s talking about.

The dispenser’s glass case teases me with its contents of tiny multi-coloured bits. I try to ignore the machine, what’s inside. I conceal it behind photos so the beans don’t gawk at me. But who is ogling whom? I know full well the jellybeans are waiting for my next slip, my folly. And the truth is they come in handy when I’m anxious, can’t figure out where a story or novel is going, what my characters are doing, why they insist on doing things that will only get them into further trouble.

I have to insert coins into the dispenser to get a handful of jellybeans. This is either my son’s idea of getting even for years of candyless torment or it is meant to save me from my impulses, give me time for sober second thought while I search for the coins to make that contraption give me what it is I want. Going through the formality of finding and inserting a coin does help with my anxiety. And, it gets me away from my desk long enough that a solution to the problem in the story I’m writing presents itself. And finding the solution, at times, saves me from inserting that coin. Instead, I sit back down at the computer and begin writing. It’s always a good thing when my hands are in motion, my mind fully engaged.

But, during those times when I can’t find a way back into my stories or my characters refuse to talk to me (it happens, believe me, more than I care to admit), I stare at that jellybean dispenser, ignore all prerequisites of coins and bring out my own weapon of mass destruction. The screwdriver.

I run down three flights of stairs to the workshop, find it in one of the many toolboxes my husband owns, run all the way back up and unscrew the top of the dispenser with a few simple twists. Crazed? Well, maybe a little.

Then, I sit Yogi Bear style gobbling jellybeans in fistfuls as Yogi would the contents of a picnic basket.

And I think my characters have problems. I know what you’re thinking, have you looked in a mirror lately?

What can I tell you? I’m compulsive and restless and driven to find the stories I’m supposed to tell. I’m that sort of writer. No not a flack. Or at least I don’t think so.

I believe that stories find me. Not the other way around. So most of the time I sit quietly, waiting for my characters to talk to me, reveal their secrets, their flaws, their desires and the stuff they won’t tell anyone else. Then I simply write what they allow me to tell you, the reader. When everything falls into place, I’m calm. Really I am. It likely doesn’t show as you read this blog, but it’s true. Would I lie to you? Oops, there’s another line I’ve used on my son once or twice before. Like the characters in my stories, I have no shame.

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