So, you all know how this works: you get an idea and you start to write, just before pulling up short, a few hastily assembled sentences later, in order to consider the sky. Day or night, it always has something going on that is far more fascinating than whatever-it-is you are struggling to put down on paper. Sometimes I can be sitting here at the Unicorn hour; the sky black as ink, no stars, no moon, but still more interesting than anything I can squeeze from between my ears. Currently, I cannot pull my eyes away from a giant white tadpole slowly, slowly edging its way across my horizon, sucking in the furry minions that surround it, becoming a bloated black-bellied whale before my eyes. How long before it rains?
Now, where was I?
The sky is number one on my list of things that distract me from what I am supposed to be doing. Writing a list of things that distract me from what I am supposed to be doing is number two. I do not know why I am so easily distracted. My very first teacher, who remained my friend fifty-five years later, told me I had a ‘butterfly brain’, but she was being kind. It is much more like one of those little flies that won’t leave you alone when you’ve got a glass of wine. Or a moth: same principal as a butterfly, but less delicate, less beautiful and… ooh, look at the light!
My pre-writing ritual usually involves moving anything from around me that might distract me, but that in itself becomes a distraction. I have just spent fifteen minutes perusing a handful of fossils we managed to pick up when I went for a socially distanced stroll along the beach with my grandson; remembering the conspiratorial wink my three year old granddaughter gave me when she covertly held my hand. All my precious things are on shelves above my eye-level when I am seated. I try very hard to ensure that all that surrounds the laptop is stationery. (I have just had to check that I do mean ‘stationery’ and I do, although it is almost always stationary as well. Who can beat the hours lost in Dictionary and Thesaurus?) Anything that glitters diverts my attention. God help me if somebody leaves a marble in amongst the paperclips. Mind you, anything that doesn’t glitter also diverts my attention: why doesn’t it glitter? Did it offend some fundamental being at the dawn of time? ‘You can be delicately perfect in form; fragile as a pixie’s gossamer doily, but you will never shine?’ That kind of thing can scar the most stoic of souls. Is it not natural to feel sympathy for a pencil eraser when even a granite worktop can sparkle?
I have four rulers in the pot in front of me. Why? I have no idea. I cannot remember the last time I drew a straight line. There is so little of interest about a straight line. It is always the shortest route – unless you stumble into a wormhole – the most direct and the least interesting: like settling for a ‘99’ when you could have red sauce and sprinkles too. Oh, and I’ve just remembered the ice cream cones that you used to be able to buy with a sphere of bubble gum at the bottom. Brilliant – as long as you remembered what was coming. What were they called? Screwball. Who doesn’t love a Screwball? One of the rulers is black; one of them is red, and the third is clear. One of the rulers is wood. It has only inches, not centimetres. The clear ruler is half the length of the others. (Or are they twice its length? How would I know? What is the standard requirement for a ruler – apart from being straight I mean?) Point is, why do I have them and, more importantly, why does it bother me? I know where a centimetre comes from (It is a fraction of the distance to the moon, I think. I will check that shortly) but where does an inch come from – apart from being a twelfth of a foot. And is a foot the length of a foot? If so, whose foot? And how on earth did they measure feet before they had inches? Maybe in hands, like horses…
Anyway, I’ve slipped from the point. (I must just make a note of what I need to Google before I go to bed – also, why the inventor of Google didn’t use spellcheck when he invented it and, further, why my spellcheck does not recognise ‘spellcheck’) My point is, I need to find a way of stopping my brain from slipping away with a bagful of Revels just when I need it, and coming back with only the coffee creams remaining when the work is over and the words have been counted and – look at that! The black-bellied whale has been whipped by the wind into a thin mountain range with a bright orange sun slipping slowly behind it, bleeding colour across the sky, like a red sock in a white wash. I’ll just have to watch that for a little while. Remember, every time could be the last time…
…And now I recall. I bought the red ruler because it was flexible and I kept breaking the black ones in my bag…
My mind is like my internet browser: nineteen tabs open, three of them frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from – Anon
Who? – Me
Who, me? – Me