I have always tried to duck questions like ‘How do you go about writing? I don’t really know how to answer and anyway, I’m not sure there is only one answer. Here I am, though, right at the beginning of an idea hatching and it has a familiar feeling, so this is an attempt to describe what is happening.
First, though, it IS the idea that’s hatching at present, not me that’s hatching the idea – or that’s what it feels like. I’ll press on, regardless of grammatical correctness, if you don’t mind; that’s how it takes me:
Idling through emails or Facebook or some such, I come across a message/post that catches my eye. I’m trying to write plays at present and this one is from a local theatre wanting 10-minute submissions. I open it. There’s a theme: David Bowie. I think it’s not for me – I know he was a singer/songwriter of exceptional talent and inventiveness, but ‘pop’ (if that’s the right word? Probably not) isn’t really my thing. But then I get that feeling – a sort of restless anticipation, like just before going into labour or laying an egg, maybe. I have no personal experience of that (egg-laying), so I’m guessing. The thing is, I was absolutely bowled over by his song ‘Where are we now?’ The first, wistful line of the song starts running in my head. I’m foggy about the rest of the words. Blast! I’ll have to look them up. I find the lyrics online. I copy them down. That’s it. The worm has entered my brain. There is no guarantee of a good outcome at this stage – or, indeed, any outcome at all, but the worm is irresistible. It has propelled me into Another State of Being. I look more things up, I begin to scribble:
Why she in Berlin? Phone calls. Mother or daughter? How does he know she’s here? Stroke? Funny phone calls and same on entryphone? Aksel, Aton, Frantz, Lennart. Shot? Thought dead? If daughter, is mother dead? ‘You’re the drunk in the cafe. Lurched. Couldn’t speak properly. Etc.
Now I’m really bewitched, bothered and bewildered by it. At breakfast, someone has asked me to pass the peanut butter – apparently – and I respond, ‘Do you know how to say ‘piss off’ in German?’
Answer not forthcoming, I look it up. I decide to try and clear my head by going out into the garden and chopping back the summer jasmine, which has grown into a mega-birdnest. I stop halfway through, as yet another thought has popped in, rush back indoors, scribble more. Jasmine is now looking lopsided and even worse. It’ll have to wait for the rest of its haircut.
Daughter just arrived? Living there? Why? Asking Mum to come – lay ghosts? Jungle now nightclub! Photo? Wall came down 1989. Police (Polizei) 110 or 112. How old everybody?
Later that morning: Apparently, coffee was offered and I did not respond. Did I not hear? What?
Family now concerned. Me too. It’s like a virus before all the symptoms have emerged – you can’t shake the feeling but you’re not sure what comes next, yet. Write blog about it. Does it help? No.
So far so incoherent. The possibility of a feeble fizzle-out is quite high if I can’t ‘hear’ the voices I need. I look up ‘drunk’ and ‘stroke’ in German.
Ouch! I fail to see that I haven't reached the bottom step of the stairs, as I was wondering ‘flowers or not flowers?’ at the time and it caused me to go temporarily blind. I am strongly reminded of the bit in ‘I Capture the Castle’ where they incarcerate their (certifiably insane, in my opinion) father in the tower to force him to write. I don’t need to be forced to write, just to be locked away for my own safety and the good of those around me.
It’s finished.It might be crap.
Ooh, coffee? Yes, please!