A few weeks into retirement, I catapulted myself out of bed, and headed for the “office,” squinting so as not to fall, reaching out for my pencils and paper as I went, afraid to turn on any lights.
“Whatddya doing?” yelled my husband. “It’s only 6:10 in the morning!”
“I know, I know,” I mumbled, choosing not to slacken my pace. “But, I have to write something down—fast—before I forget it!”
And, I did write it down.
It was a story about two Chinese girls, orphans. One was missing her mother who, a few years prior, had disappeared, but not before burning down their house. In a few days I had completed the story, “Memory Box,” which has been published multiple times.
Fantastic! Writing in my sleep, or drifting in the land between being wide awake and half passed out? This has become my favorite way of writing but, sadly, I cannot call all of these whisperings into being. I must wait patiently for the next one to reveal itself to me. I’m fortunate in that I’ve always had a very active dream life. A dream years ago about being the director of an elaborate production, on a film set I believe, convinced me to pick up a pen to ensure that reality caught up to my dreams.
If I hesitate before fleeing the marital bed in the middle of the night–I’m tired, cold, too hot, just plain lazy–if I repeat the phrases I hear to my husband to reinforce the memory, no dice. Shortcuts do not do the job for me. And, despite my pleas to him, he unerringly forgets what I’ve told him. Every time. Everything. I’m a slow learner. In the middle of the night, I may refuse to get up, reasoning that surely I will remember the words, the characters, and the setting the next morning but I never do.
Yesterday, something remarkable happened. My husband had a whispering! His very own. This is a man who claims never to dream. He does not write regularly. He’s still in the stage of “I’m no writer. You’re the writer!” as if inspiration is rationed and he’s too late to join the game. Well, I had told him about a site that was soliciting stories about baseball. He’s a real fan. At 6 am, he jumped out of bed, ran into the office and, in ten minutes, had a poem called “A Simple Game,” which he sent off to the journal, Baseball Bard. We compared notes. He had awoken with the same urgency, with words playing in his head.
He got a nice little poem into the journal out of his early rising. We both pray inspiration continues to reveal itself in this way. Now, we all know that waiting for inspiration is not exactly productive, is generally frowned upon, and is what a lazy writer might turn to. Writers, we’re told, should not wait for inspiration to hit. We need to develop the habit of writing regularly, and stick to it.
Let me add that, while waiting for a whispering from beyond may often be unproductive, it is hopelessly addictive. And to which I credit my story, “Losing Face,” which is punctuated by song lyrics from Johnny Cash to the opening scene: At the beach an older woman emerges from the water, instructing my character to “let Johnny Cash be your yardstick!” In no way can I be construed as a country music fan so I had to develop a whole rationale to justify that exchange, but what a gift! The story became a finalist in the Pen2Paper contest.
Another time, a strange description in “Mamie” forced me to try my hand at a totally different genre, resulting in the story’s inclusion in a small anthology.
In the past, writers claimed to be “taking dictation” from voices they heard in their heads, or by tapping into the zeitgeist. I, for one, no longer laugh at these claims, and impatiently await my next experience. All that’s required is leaving paper and pen by my bedside (which I usually forget to do), and making sure not to trip over my slippers on the way out of the bedroom. I haven’t collided in the hallway with my husband yet but that may become a concern. I’ll have to check in with any overnight visitors, too—we don’t want a pileup!
Janet Garber is readying herself for the launching of her fourth book, a second novel, entitled The French Lover’s Wife, in April 2023. In the meantime she continues writing fiction, cnf, and a little poetry, aiming at injecting a bit of humor into all her work, even the “horror” pieces. Her work has appeared in many literary and university journals such as The Raven’s Perch, Forge Literary Magazine, and Tigershark. She lives in the lower Hudson Valley with hubby and two rescue cats, going on hikes, and pandemic-permitting, running off to hear live music.
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