Unexpected Lessons from an Empty Notebook

[UPDATE: Here is a Link to the complete Typewriter Story, in forward-order, for you to read.]

I found a Moleskine notebook in my stuff. I peeled off the plastic and resolved to fill it with a story, a page at a time.

No rules. No one drawing style. Color or no color. Text or no text. I wanted it to flow as freely as possible. No being precious about formats or “the product.” I would stay out of my own way.

This little project turned out deep. Very deep. It surprised me. And made me feel wonderment, and sadness, all at once.

I kicked ofTS 00f with a randomly-selected word: “TYPEWRITER.” And drew a picture of a typewriter. Then I turned the page and kept going.


There was a bespectacled black fellow, and his cat. They fell into a magic typewriter.

They walked on the typewriter ribbon. Kitty somehow got a hat and magic wand and started talking.

A murmuring M came by, and warned the two about “The Angry I.” Then it ran away again. Who was this “Angry I?” The phrase meant something. I had to find out what.

Out in the world Alton Sterling was shot outside a convenience store. His death was broadcast worldwide. I was drawing a few pages a day, with some breaks.

TS 34The fellow and his cat visited the ribbon spool, which was like a spa of renewal. Kitty fell into the land of Mistakes, and found out how groovy mistakes and typos can be. They met the letter Z, who was from a “more chill part of the keyboard” than the Angry I.

Out in the world Philando Castile was shot by police. His death was live-streamed by his girlfriend.

The characters encountered the CAPS LOCK key, who did nothing but yell. The Shift key wasn’t much better.

Out in the world five police officers were shot down in Dallas.

The two characters visited the Space Bar, where mistakes and ideas hang out and become new things. Every creation is valued, and given a little Space.

This experiment had morphed into a meditation on speech, and voice. And on silencing the Other. On how important it is to hear, and to speak. How it is life and death.

I took the notebook with me to the California coast. I took it to San Diego Comic Con. I drew in it at the airport.

I had figured out how the story would end, and I had to fit it into the notebook. So I roughed out the last few pages, backwards, to be sure it would work. Started working both directions at once. Kept posting pages.

When the fellow and his cat ran into the Angry I, they asked what was wrong. They tried to listen. But the I stormed off.

Kitty was scared. Anger made him afraid. So the next time the Angry I popped up, Kitty was shaking. So much that he dropped his magic wand.

The wand spit out just what was needed.

I realized I had been drawing a young black man in a hoodie.

Out in the world a Muslim couple were paying tribute to their fallen son, who had died serving in the U.S. Army.

As I finished the notebook and drew the final page, I felt sad. This little book was my companion for a good while. I had gotten attached to this fellow and his cat.

Finishing this story I felt connected to the world by unseen strings that came only through paper and pencil.

Thanks notebook. And fellow and his cat. And typewriter.

Thanks to the pencil sharpener. You were a big help, too.


The #TypewriterStory was posted page by page as I wrote/drew it.

Here again is the link to the completed story

Here’s where it all started in my Instagram:

Do you have a blank notebook or a pad of paper lying around? Does it want a story drawn in there? What story will you tell? Please let me know.