Patricia Highsmith begins the preface to this book by saying, "This is not a how-to-do-it handbook." Of course the title makes one expect exactly that. Later in the preface, she says, "In this book, I speak a lot about the odd happenings, the coincidences which have led to my writing a few good stories or books." At the time she wrote that, 1966, she had published eleven novels. So then this slim volume is not so much how-to-do-it, but how-she-did-it.
We learn that Highsmith, "never found other writers stimulating. . . . I get along much better with painters, and painting is the art most closely related to writing." She has more to say on this, and, though I'm not convinced, I'm delighted to know she thought so.
In her chapters on "The Germ of an Idea" and "Mainly on Using Experiences" she is eloquent on the subject of keeping notebooks. She relates developing extended descriptions into short stories, but also comments, "Even three or four words are often worth jotting down if they will evoke a thought, an idea or a mood."
I was thrilled to learn she was a fan of afternoon naps, as I am. She says, "I go to sleep with the problem, and wake up with the answer."
She covers lots of grand ideas, and lots of nuts and bolts, but she speaks to me most when she says, "Writing is a way of organizing experience and life itself."