A few nights ago I was awakened by the smoke alarms going off. Not the typical middle of the night beep that ONLY happens at 3 am to let you know the batteries are low. No, this was a full on 4 am smoke alarm fire-in-the-house event. Numerous of the interconnected little warning machines were letting loose. I leaped out of bed, looked around the upstairs hall and rooms. I saw no smoke in the dim light, so pelted down the stairs to check the lower level rooms, where both kids were sleeping. With no obvious signs of fire or even smoke, I returned to the living room, to find Rob also having jumped up to search the house. The downstairs alarms, for some reason were not going, just the stairway and upstairs ones. We traipsed back to try and turn them off.
If you have these new fangled alarms wired throughout your house, and if they have ever gone off, you know that being in the same room as one is utterly disastrous to your ears. Of course, our upstairs rooms have high vaulted ceilings, so the alarms are impossible to reach. And naturally, the ladder was outside in the only 10 degree cold night we have had in 3 weeks. Rob bravely went out, got the ladder, and headed back upstairs with it, while I tried to use a hiking pole to push the button of one.
After several attempts to silence them, then eventually just ripping the damn things off the ceiling, we got all the upstairs ones turned off, batteries replaced, and silenced. It was in this silence that we heard the one in the attic going off. So, Rob hauled the ladder over to where he could access the attic, climbed up there, and pulled out that one as well.
There was no fire anywhere, just a wild and wakeful event. In our sleepy shock at the whole thing, there was no ability to assess the situation and figure out why they had been set off. I assumed, later, that one of them malfunctioned,which set off the other ones. But at 4 am, this was all very hazy. There was no fire, all seemed well, so we went back to bed.
I could not however, go to sleep. I laid there, thinking about the whole thing; marvelling at the speed at which my brain awoke, pulled my body into action, and searched the house for possible fire. I was inwardly proud of my instantaneous and swift reaction to run to where the kids were and make sure they were safe. I laid there thinking of the things I value in this house, and what I always think I would grab on my way down the stairs, but the reality was that when that alarm went off, the only thing I thought of was those children. That's an core instinct if I ever had one.
And then, it happened. After lying in bed for 10 minutes, something happened to me that has never happened before. Maybe it was because of the flash of good feelings about myself, or that I recently started reading a new book about the brain and creativity insights. Maybe it was my half sleep state, or the ease at which my brain is distracted lately, due to having a cold. Maybe it was just the moment. But, as I laid there, a story, a world, something utterly not of me came out of the blue and entered my brain. It was nothing I had ever thought of before, and yet it was all the thoughts I have ever had. It started with a small epiphany, and instantly I saw my brain working, testing, thinking, analyzing the idea. I worked out concepts and story lines, characters and actions, and a few major details. I turned the light on and wrote things down, then tried to go to sleep. But my brain would not quit. So I wrote a little more. It was as cohesive and clear as a hazy dream, but it felt stupendous and like perfection.
After about a hour of this, my brain resigned to sleep, and I got a feeble few more hours until sunrise.
In the light of day I wondered about this idea I had had in the darkness. I often have nighttime creativity bursts, or singular insights that come as I am falling asleep. I find the stimulation of a days worth of thoughts jump out of me when I lie down to relax at night. This was similar, only in the middle of the night and much more intense. I put off looking at my notes, did my regular chores and whatnot for the morning, but when writing time arrived, I could not help but want to just jot a few notes down about this weird idea that came to me.
So, I did. I began to write down my thoughts. And more, and more. And for three days now this story is all I can think of. It is utterly unlike anything I have ever written. It is fiction! Wild, bold, fantastical fiction! I have no idea where it is going, or if writing about it here will dilute its power. I cannot begin to guess what it means or what will come of the inspiration. Or if I could even possibly execute the grande and detailed story that is pouring out.
But I am amazed. Usually my writing takes lots of mental energy. I ask questions that take days to work out the answer. I write, sit, let alone, and revise later. With this, it is like lightning. Don't get me wrong, I am not writing a perfect words or anything like that, I am writing information, details, incidents, and ideas that may eventually lead to a story. Right now it is just bits, pieces of something that is all connected together somehow. A giant puzzle has been laid before me, and my brain is working it all out with the speed of a mother running to save her children from fire.
I am grateful that there was no fire that night, but the smoke alarms went off anyway. They opened up some kind of window into my subconscious that feels strange and powerful and vivid. And I am hoping to just let it flow out, until it is done. And then, maybe, if I have not gone completely crazy, I will have something that is a little bit interesting and has a true moment of inspiration behind it, to work with.