Sunday. Normally a pretty quiet day, yes? One for lounging about, not doing much. Watching a bit of TV. Having a late dinner. You know the drill. Yesterday, for us, was one of those Sundays. We were marking a personal milestone in our lives, my husband and I, and we pledged, weeks ago, that we’d spend the day together doing whatever we liked.
As it turned out, ‘whatever we liked’ happened to be noodling on the internet (him) and reading a Terry Pratchett book (me) while listening to a succession of CDs (because we’re elderly) and sighing, occasionally, at how wonderful it all was. Yes, we are the original party animals.
Anyway. Late in the evening, we decided to watch a bit of TV. While channel-hopping, I came across a programme on one of the BBCs (I really do love the BBC, you know), which was about an esoteric, odd and even somewhat creepy topic, but one which fascinates me. Better than that, though, was this: the topic forms the central pole of an idea I had for a book, about a year ago, which has been buzzing away in my lower subconscious ever since. I won’t say I’d forgotten about it, because I hadn’t, but I guess I’d sort of put it away. Shelved, you might say. This is a bit silly, this one, I told myself. Unlikely, you know?
Except, as I found yesterday, it isn’t all that silly at all.
The programme I watched showed me that not only was my proto-idea still fascinating (to me, at least), because I was gripped by it the whole way through, but that there are actually a lot more links between my fictional idea and the actual history of the world than I’d thought. The main thrust of the plot I’d half-dreamed of involved political machination and manoeuvring at the tip-top of society, all made possible through the nefarious deeds of a mysterious lady who is, for reasons unknown, kidnapping children – and the reason, the very specific reason why the lady needs to kidnap children (which I’d dismissed, sadly, as being too far-fetched and stupid), I have now learned, would actually work.
Or, at least, the programme gave me back my enthusiasm for the idea, to the extent that I grabbed a pen and an old envelope and as I sat watching the TV, I was scribbling notes. Names of real historical figures, dates, places. Technical terms. I will admit to a wide and slightly manic grin creeping over my face as I realised: I might have something here. This idea, which plopped into my head one day as we drove cross-country to visit someone, and I had neither pen nor paper nor even my phone to make a note, could actually – one day, with work and research and a lot of fleshing out – become a real story… well.
It was a bit like a bucket of cold water being poured down the back of my collar. In a good way. In a way that told me: don’t be so quick to dismiss your ideas. Don’t be so quick to tell yourself something is impossible. Life is always teaching me that things I thought were impossible are actually easy-peasy, if a bit of mental ingenuity and elbow grease are applied. It also woke me up to the very important realisation that no idea is worth junking, at least straight away. One never knows the hour nor the minute that a perfect thread to connect that tiny idea-let with another will flit into your mind, making an intriguing – if slightly unlikely – whole. Perhaps it will be a TV programme which you’ll happen upon by chance while searching for something else, and it will rivet you to your seat while your mind fills up with images. Perhaps it will be something you read. Perhaps it will be a half-heard snatch of conversation, or a phrase that fits exactly into a hole in your imagination. Whatever it is, you won’t know it’s there if you’re not constantly open to receiving it. So, put down your mental umbrellas, and wait for the cold dousing from the Universal Bucket.
It’s a bit shocking, I’ll warrant. You may want to dance around the room shaking out your arms, and your teeth might chatter, and you may not be able to think straight for a while afterwards. But worth it? Oh, yes.