It’s strange, isn’t it, how the creative juices start flowing the minute you lie down to sleep, Well, come to think of it, it’s not all that strange. There you are, halfway to dreamland and your mind just goes “aaaah” after a long day and relaxes. Your synapses open wide, an odd word or scene from what you’ve just been watching on telly sort of twirls lazily up and down your brain stem and WHAM! your imagination has ignited.
I think most writers keep paper and pen by the bed. I guess most of you – just like me – have become quite skilled (well…) at writing in the dark. As I write it down, groggy with lack of sleep, I’m convinced it’s a “roman de clef”, a new fantastic masterpiece. Or at least I’m sure this particular scene is perfect, the dialogue witty and the action credible. Come morning, I stare down with dismay at the illegible scrawl. (Hey, it’s difficult to write when it’s pitch dark, but for some odd reason my husband protest LOUDLY when I turn the light on and I’m too tired to crawl out of bed) Okay, so I can make out a word or two, and sometimes a couple of lines of dialogue are fully legible as well (and yes, mostly they are quite good – except I don’t remember the full context, even if I’m sure I was on to something potentially very great), but at most it can serve as inspiration, not as a draft. Sigh. Big, big sigh.
Some nights, the barrage of words and scenes is so intense I have to get up, turn on my computer and write until my finger tips are sore. This results in a zombie like existence the day after, because no matter that Napoleon Bonaparte insisted anyone who slept seven hours or more was an idiot, I need my eight hours to function properly. (Sorry to be a disappointment, Napoleon. “Ca fait rien,” he politely answers. “Vous etês un femme, non?” He bows and fades away. Nice guy, for all that he’s short, balding and suffers from megalomania… )
Sometimes I try to cheat this creative clock of mine by sleeping very late in the day (this is something that can only be rarely achieved – like during holidays) so that I am bright and chirpy well beyond my normal bedtime. My mind sulks in protest. No fun, it grumbles and more or less refuses to share any new and wondrous insights into my developing novel. This is where I have a very serious conversation with my brain (Creepy, isn’t it?) reminding it it works for me, and that per default any imaginings are mine, okay? I then settle down to do some editing, polishing, adverb cutting (there’s always an excessive adverb or two to slash. Always.) If I’m patient and concentrate on crossing my t:s and dotting my i:s, a couple of hours later I am rewarded by a flash of inspiration. Time flies. My fingers hurt. I write. And write. The house around me is eerily quiet and dark. I scarcely notice, sucked into another place, another time.
“You’d best get to bed,” someone says.
“Eh?” I jerk upright and swivel on my chair. There’s a soft laugh from one of the corners and for an instant I’m sure I can see my imaginary Matthew reclining against the wall.
“Get some sleep, lass,” he says, and I love it how his voice is tender and raspy at the same time. Very promising. I suppress a little shiver. Until I realise he’s staring at her, at Alex, who for some reason has now materialised in the opposite corner in only her shift and a shawl. As I watch my heroine pulls the hairpins from her hair and it tumbles down her shoulders. He extends his hand, her fingers graze his and POOF! they’re gone.
I shake myself free of this somewhat too realistic image and decide Matthew is right. Time for bed, no matter that dawn is tinting the skies a faded pink and that the blackbirds are beginning to sing. With a huge yawn I fall into bed beside my husband. A warm arm pulls me close and just like that I’m out.
Next evening I’m too tired for an all night stint. But just as I’m about to drift off into sleep, Alex whispers something in my ear. With a groan I lean out of bed and find my pad and pen. This has to be committed to paper A.S.A.P. After all, this might be a new masterpiece, no?