It’s 3.20 AM, Wednesday, 1 June 2011 as I turn on the light and look at the clock. Dammit. I am awake and I don’t want to be. I want to sleep till about 7, have medications and some food so the residue from the pills won’t rip my gut lining apart after the active agents have done their work, and then start writing one of the stories for this blog.
But it hasn’t happened that way. I went to bed a little earlier than usual – not too long after midnight – but woke, as I said, too early. Much too early. It’s not like I was in any more discomfort than usual; I was awake. So I simply started to think about all the things that usually put me to sleep quickly when I’m tired.
That didn’t work. I had been asleep just enough time for the thinking to generate wakefulness rather than sleep. I lay there, each story completing itself in my brain, though not really compartmentalised. I have the final parts of my story about truth and reality all there. I know exactly what I want to say. A couple of funny childhood stories told themselves from start to finish. All of them emerged in consciousness with utter fluidity and entirety.
But there was a problem. Such totality exists in the brain in a form different from how it comes out on the screen. When I actually start writing, tapping on the keyboard, the process is different. The story changes as it unfolds. It may be a satisfactory story, but it’s not the same one. It may travel along another route, maybe parallel, perhaps not.
That means we may arrive at another destination rather than the intended one, like our Timelord in the Tardis. (Ah, what a perfect metaphor for the mind is the Tardis! Dr Who, you’ve just illustrated my point. I didn’t intend to go quite here.... Yet here we are, at the door of infinite possibilities.)
I’ve tried dealing with this before. I keep a pad by the bed and scribble the ideas on to a page. But that means turning on the light, sitting up, and writing. The fluid process in my head happening earlier is disturbed by this mechanical activity. To write it down, physically, is better than nothing, true, as it’s a bit disconcerting to wake hours after thinking a story through to find it gone completely.
So I put a voice recorder near the bed, but the problem is the same. Just now, as I was lying in bed, I pretended to have a dictaphone there so I could mimic recording my ideas. Even though I simply had to whisper the words, they came out differently from the package in my brain. I still had to marshal the ideas into real sentences. I start thinking about sentence structure so I can say it aloud.
Again, Dr Who jumps out of the Tardis and finds he has a different set of challenges to face from what he thought.
What I’ve realised is that creating a story in the brain is utterly different as a process from getting in down. In the mind, it’s like jumping from stone to stone across a pool. The stones are keywords and concepts. The pool... well, you know what that is.
When I am thinking, I don’t need all the words. Just the stepping stones.
In that sense it’s like reading a page in my head. I don’t read every word down the page of a book. My eye travels down a whole line at a time, and I absorb the idea. Composing a story of this type, fact or fiction, is something I do in large measure symbolically, not word by word.
It’s quite frustrating to have every story you have yet to write on a blog sitting parcelled neatly in your brain, but in a code that’s hard to translate into these words and sentences you’re reading now. We tend to think that the only way we think is in words, but that’s nonsense. Is an Olympic diver thinking in words what comes next in the three seconds of a complicated dive? No way. She just does it. But to explain it to others, we need these strange little parcels. These tiny powerful bits of data. Words.
No doubt every would-be writer has to come to grips with it, I’m sure, and deal with it in their own way. Maybe the brilliant story-tellers don’t even have this problem at all. In that case, I wish I had half their talent – that’s all I can say.
Obviously, I’m well and truly awake now and sleep won’t come until I’ve emptied this vat of swirling ideas into some receptacle and not just store it precariously in my brain. I’ve brought a cup of fine Japanese Bancha tea with me to the study. It will help me try to decode my ideas as well as I can into these magical deceptive tyrannical things called words.
More on that when I start talking about different perceptions of reality! Let’s get going. All I can do is start, and see where it takes me.
Now it’s 7 am. I am so tired and fuzzy I have to return to bed. And I haven’t even opened my email! That’s rare – but I dare not. Sleep is more important. But at least I have written the whole next segment that I intended to be part of this. I’ll post it later in the day. Insha’allah, as my Muslim friends say. God willing.
Yes, I’m going to talk about God too, but not yet. Even God with a capital G must line up in the queue in my brain, and has been there for many months.
Good to see this flow of words, Denis. We change an event every time we think about. Electrons doing their job. Some signals hide, some arise. Full with meaning...that they create and we are they! DipenReplyDelete
As ever, wise words from a very wise man. Thanks, Dipenbhai.ReplyDelete