My head’s been in a strange place of late.
While my shoulder heals well ahead of schedule, my sleep still falls victim to it’s ache. My normal sleep habits – a mess at the best of times – are now completely fractured.
It’s no secret that I’ve been had hell’s own time writing recently, to the point where I had lost all care or interest in it. But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve begun to feel the return of some faint muse.
Characters are starting to regain their voices. Only, they are doing so in the middle of the night.
Every night this week, when I’m just down far enough into the well of sleep that I can’t drag back out without struggle (or caffeine), I start thinking of things I need to write. Characters, stories, themes, settings.
I actually got up one night over the weekend, with this piece of dialog in my head:
“Where’d this come from,” she asked me, running a finger over the faintly puckered skin above my right ear.
The scar itself was numb, but the skin around it was oddly sensitive. It tingled when she traced it’s jagged outline.
“Walked into a door,” I said.
She stroked my scalp, the day and a half of stubble making a faint scraping sound.
“I like it,” she said.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough. I could visualize the woman – her short, stylishly cut hair in some perfect honey shade, her mellow voice, her skin tan and just beginning to show her fourty years. I knew the narrator; a sort of stock character out of my head – big, road-worn, a bit taciturn, and with dark secrets in his past. I knew how they wound up together, and where they were (her bed, with late afternoon sun through expensive curtains, fading light on sex-tossed covers the color of caramel. I had her entire house in my head, her colors, her expensive, understated taste. I even knew what car was parked (somewhat crookedly, like she’d been in a hurry) in the carport beside her house.
I knew the conversation, up until he opens his mouth, pauses, and then begins to tell her his story. And then it ran out. I didn’t know what the story was. Or to be more specific, while I knew what story he’d tell her, I didn’t know what THIS story was, that I was telling.
I wrote it down, and saved it. A small victory; the first bit of fiction that’s gotten all the way out of my head and onto (virtual) paper in more months than I can remember.
But it’s been that way every night. Last night, a pair of characters wandered into my head and tried to talk to me. A female young traveler, and the mate of some craft, making a lonely traverse. I don’t know if this was a ship crossing bodies of water, or some spaceship crossing unimaginable gulfs, or an airship in some steampunk past-future. But I could hear her voice, and hear him tell her how everyone else on the ship slept, his low rank leaving him on the bridge.
They never got to the point where it became a story; just a setting, faces, emotions (pride, loneliness) and an physical environment of cold and isolation.
Today, I tried to write a bit of that down, but I had nothing. I couldn’t summon the scene, merely it’s description. Like all the veins of creativity I’ve encountered between sleep and wake, it was small, and not found again once lost.
Inspiration, for me, is profoundly elusive. I have never found a way to turn it on, and so often find it slipping. The muse of distraction speaks more loudly, always, than that of creation. But at least I begin to hear those whispers. I’ve missed the voice of creative inspiration.