I’ve decided my head is like a slow cooker. All kinds of ingredients go into it all day long and then it stews and brews and bubbles and out comes something not at all recognizable, although if I parse the resulting idea I can sometimes figure out parts of the components that went into it.
Let me give you a for-instance. Here are some of the recent “ingredients” in my life:
- An accumulated summer sleep deficit as the result of maintaining the same workload during the summer (when my kids are with me all day long) as during the rest of the year (when I have six-and-a-half extra hours to work, clean the house, cook, etc.).
- Going through child withdrawal after having them with me all the time for 10 long weeks.
- Listening, throughout the day, to the ever-breaking news about the Russian plane crash killing so many people my age with families like mine.
- Reading the details of the CBC Short Story contest and thinking I really should come up with an original idea for a story for it.
- As I prepared for bed, learning an amber alert had been issued for a three-year-old boy, apparently taken from his own bed wearing nothing but Scooby-Doo boxer shorts and suspected to have been abducted by a sexually-deviant criminal.
Not surprisingly, my brain went into overdrive and I woke up at about 3:00 a.m. with the most upsetting story ever in my head. It was quite complete and extremely vivid and, I repeat, upsetting.
However, it was also compelling. I didn’t forget about it after I fell back to sleep. It stuck with me all through the day while I did other things. It didn’t stop haunting me and every time I thought about it I could feel the pinpricks of discomfort.
I thought “maybe this is too upsetting to write” and then I thought “that’s probably a good indication you should write it” and finally I decided writing it down might be a form of exorcism and so far, in about 45 minutes of writing I’ve poured out 949 words and, while the weirdness is still undeniably there, some of the urgency has gone and I feel less panicked about the story.
It’s not exactly the same story as I woke up with about 18 hours ago but it does have the same feeling. I’m going to finish it and I’m going to submit it – if not to the CBC contest then to some other contest – and if it goes anywhere and gets published in any form, I’ll let you know so you can read it.
Because I’ve been so seized by inspiration today I wanted to give you a little snapshot into how it sometimes works for me. I’d also be interested to know how it works for you…