I was shaken awake last night. And the earthquake was internal.
A dream. Vivid, detailed. A dream that shouted. And not a dream at all.
Plot. Images. Lines. Over and over. Playing out in the place where dreams live, but not part of them. I was aware in a most unsettling way that the images existed outside of dream space, as if my head was the nearest handy container for something that only superficially resembled dreaming.
I tried to sleep through the episode; to give myself wholly to the healing rest that my body has been telling me it needs. No. The tale reached into my sleep and demanded that I listen.
I am no stranger to middle-of-the night inspirations. I write often in these posts about the feeling…plucking elements of story whole out of the darkness. This was not that experience. Not at all. I can’t ever remember a feeling like this one. This was an insistence almost irate, impatient, nearly human. An indignant sense that I was not paying attention. A feeling of being commanded. A not-voice that absolutely refused to be denied. Do this. Now. Come on.
I remember thinking in my sleep that I wanted to be left alone; that I wanted to sleep, that I wasn’t sure that the direction in which I was being led was the direction I wanted to go. I have begun to love my characters enough to dread the ending I am contemplating for some of them. That awareness of reluctance was part of the temblor, the not-voice’s argument. “I am giving this to you. Listen. Note it. Decide later. If you’re smart, that’s what you’ll do. Don’t make up your mind. Don’t use your mind at all. Just hear.”
I drew the tape recorder down into the covers and started recording. The quality of the taped thoughts, the temblor? I am not on solid enough footing with this new work to know. I won’t listen until later…not until I can be far enough from the unsettling feeling to have perspective on it.
This I do know. Writers have moments in which we are inhabited from the outside. Those shallow hours are the ones in which we are closest to the entities, the muses, the spirits not ourselves. Perhaps sleep is the most receptive and accepting time for the frail organisms that we are. Perhaps it is in those slim, pale hours that we can listen and not go insane in the shaking of who we are.