Sinatra’s voice, locked in my mind.
In the wee small hours of the morning.
Can’t sleep. Tossing. Turning. Duvet an instrument of torture. Frustration taken out on pillow, which is punched, pushed and pummelled. Still doesn’t give me any comfort.
There are many things worse than not being able to sleep but it doesn’t seem like that at the time.
The mind torments.
Thoughts, worries, fears.
I’ve had a few.
There’s something about lying awake while the whole wide world is fast asleep that magnifies everything. Exaggerates, more like. Every little problem is blown up to ten times its actual size.
I once read a quote by Michael J. Fox about worrying. He said he never did it because then you have to go through the particular worry twice – once when you’re worrying about it and then if whatever the hell you’re worrying about actually happens.
It’s good advice. Worrying doesn’t help anything.
But still my mind seeks out that little niggle and proceeds to chew at it like a dog with a bone.
Money. Relationships. Creativity.
The first is a constant.
The second is a fantasy.
Well, the third…
The third is a drag.
Most writers I know go through periods of self–doubt. I’m not good enough. I’ll be found out.
It doesn’t matter how good I am, I’m never going to hit the Sunday Times bestseller list. Film or TV producers are never going to beat a path to my door.
I’m better then he/she/they are – why am I not selling/getting reviewed/praised/lauded/feted?
Yes, we can be very superior in the midst of our inferiority complex.
People try to bolster you, point out the positives, tell you that you’re building something out of nothing and they are right, but as the darkness takes hold outside your window and that duvet grips you like Buffy the Vampie Slayer (but not in a good way), you have no doubt that your self–doubt is without a doubt built on firm foundations.
So you get up, have something to eat, maybe (bad idea) make a cup of tea or even pour a drink…
Set ‘em up, Joe…
… switch on the TV and try to find something worth watching without adverts (hundreds of channels, nothing on). Finally you select something that you’re not that interested in, just because it’s a noise and it’s got motion and maybe, just maybe, you’ll become so bored that you’ll be able to head back to bed.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
And you tell yourself this is ridiculous, you should be in bed, you should be sleeping because you need to get up tomorrow and write.
But that little voice – that little bastard with the sneer – tells you know that won’t happen. Your writing is stuck in a stagnant swamp.
So you sit there, maybe have one for your baby and one more for the road, and you watch total bollocks slip past your eyes and you wonder how the hell any of this shit ever gets made.
Then it happens.
Something clicks in your brain.
If you were in a bath, you’d jump up and shout ‘Eureka!’
The notion that will make what you’re trying to write the best thing since the last best thing.
It hits you in a wave of words and concepts and you know if you use them just the way they are hitting your sleep–starved brain it will completely transform the story, or chapter, you’re working on.
Do it now, says that other little voice, the smart little voice, the one who knows whereof it speaks.
Start spreadin’ the news.
But just then fatigue hits you. You need to get back to bed. You need to sleep. You tell yourself something stupid. You tell yourself that it’ll keep till the morning.
So you crawl back under that duvet, which now welcomes you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a good way, and you lay your head on the pillows that have now turned into wonderfully welcoming aromatic clouds and you drift off to sleep in the full knowledge that you will grab a few hours and then get up refreshed and revitalised and you can turn that terrific, award–winning, bestselling idea into reality.
You know what come next, don’t you?
By morning that whole concept has returned to the ether from which it came. You have a feeling you had something stupendous but, like the angler and the one that got away, it’s swum off unscathed.
Should’ve written it down, you say. Should’ve just scribbled it on a piece of paper.
You try to retrieve it but your imagination has been hacked by cyber crooks in some far off country, only they’re not ransoming it, they’re keeping the idea for themselves.
So you stare at what you’ve written so far, you go up, down, try to get the feeling again (Manilow, I know) but whatever inspiration there was has gone, like strangers in the night, exchanging glances.
Maybe, some day, it’ll click again and you will remember it. Maybe you’ll wait from here to eternity before something like that happens again. (Last Sinatra reference, I promise).
The thing is, you can’t make what you’re writing work, so you dash off a blog post just so you feel like you’re doing something. Words down, progress, right? No point in beating yourself up over the lost great idea. As the wise man once said, shit happens.
As another wise man sang…