Friday, 23 March 2018

Aggressive lemons and divine reassurances - by Helen Murray

I had an idea the other day.  I was in the middle of writing something and an additional idea at that moment was inconvenient.  I was completely focused, and then this idea sneaked up and wanted my attention. I swiped it away, fobbing it off with 'In a minute...' and it was so offended that it disappeared and hasn't been back.

I knew I should have written it down. I should have humoured it. I should have made a mental (better still physical) note of what I was doing, suspended that thought process for a moment or two and scribbled down the idea before resuming task one.

Silly me.

Now I'm left with a nagging sense that it was A Great Idea. One of the best. And now it's gone.

Two ideas came at the same time, you see, and I was flummoxed. Like waiting for ages and ages at a bus stop and then two buses come at once. As I clamber on the first, fumbling for my bus pass, the second sails on by. I will never know what it might have been like to ride on that bus; who I might have met, what I might have seen - because I got on the first one.

Can't think why I didn't make a note. I am such a compulsive note-writer that my desk, every handbag I own, the kitchen counter and bedside drawer all house multiple notebooks. I have scraps of paper all over the place, in cardigan pockets, stuck to cupboard doors, sticking out of books. I keep a notepad by my bed in which I regularly attempt to capture something that comes to me in the hours of darkness; a dream, an idea, a snatch of dialogue, or some vague and random thought that I don't want to let go of.

This Notebook By The Bed technique has been met with variable degrees of success. I have tried not putting the light on, to avoid waking the husband, or indeed to avoid waking myself up too much, but this is not to be advised. You can very easily find that you've written a paragraph, but with each line overlaying the first and rendering them unintelligible. Or the first three words are on the notepad, the rest on the bedside table or the library book. Or, as a friend of mine shared, it turned out that the pen had no ink and you're left trying to decipher the indentations.

But such a shame to risk missing the possibility of divine inspiration in those moments when consciousness is at its most mysterious and, potentially, creative. I heard that Thomas Edison was so convinced that new ideas would occur in those twilight moments between wakefulness and sleep that he used to doze in his chair with a pen in his hand so that as he nodded off, the pen would fall and wake him, just in time to recall and write down the revelation (when he retrieved the pen from under his chair).

Perhaps it worked for Mr Edison. For me - not so much, as they say. Very often my nocturnal scrawlings are illegible come the clear light of day; whatever it was that was burning in my brain did not translate down the neural pathway to my hand. Of the messages I could read, however, I have captured some remarkable insights that I thought I might share with you.

Consider the possibilities of the following:
'The lard in the bushes is too eggy. But THIS WILL BE ALRIGHT. It will be ALRIGHT!!'
'Try putting ALL of them in.' 
Alternatively, this could be a fascinating story prompt:
'He asks her, and she just stares at him. It was too late.' 
No idea who he is, or who she is, or what he asked her, but the drama of those two sentences! Breaks your heart, doesn't it?

For sheer frustration value, I can't beat the following:
What?! What?!  I actually wrote that. What on earth was going on in my head?

Or then there's the terror of waking to find this written large on the notepad next to you:
"Don't do it."
On a lighter note, my husband once told me that I stirred as he came to bed after watching a late film. Without waking completely, I grasped his hand in both of mine and said with some urgency:
'The blue ones. You've got to watch the blue ones.' 
He wrote that one down, after he'd finished laughing.

Then there are the myriad of notes that I can't read. Excerpts include (and this is just what they look like - could be accurate, knowing my propensity to scrawl things that make no sense):
'Lemons. All of them used to be fussy lemons but now they're aggressive, unpleasant.' 
'Get your act together.'
Yes indeed. If only.

My absolute favourite, however, is the time I awoke and reached for the notepad, and wrote the following:
'No worries.' 
I even underlined it, and added a smiley face. It was clearly discernible as a smiley face, even though the eyes were slightly offset in a cubist kind of way.
'No worries. :-)' 
I like to think that one was from God.

Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire, England, with her husband, two daughters and her mum.

As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims, breeds Aloe Vera plants and collects ceramic penguins.

Helen has a blog: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith.

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray
Twitter: @helenmurray01


  1. Great post! How do you ever find the right note? I spend half my life thinking ‘I’m sure I wrote that down somewhere’ and checking receipts, tickets, scraps of paper and about eight notebooks! But I did once wake with almost a whole poem in my head and managed to grab that before it disappeared.

    1. Oh, well done on the poem! As for finding the right scrap of paper - indeed. 'Tis a problem. :-)

  2. I usually assume that any really good idea will return at a more convenient time. If I haven't fallen asleep yet, I might just get up and write it down.
    Loved 'the blue ones'!

    1. That's my hope too! Certainly if something is divinely inspired, I'm sure he won't just depend on me to get my act together!

  3. Ah this is spot on! My favourite part is the bit about the idea being offended and marching off 😂 You describe things so well Helen! Love it. I must try the Notebook by the Bed thing, but I've already knocked off so many glasses of water in the night, just by stretching, that this may not be a good idea. Great post x

    1. Good luck with the Notebook By the Bed - hope it doesn't end up soggy!

  4. Loved this Helen. Years ago I dreamed a complete short story, so when I woke in the early hours I wrote, "His name is Je (pronounced Jay).cross channel ferry." I've never written that story!

    1. Shirley, it sounds intriguing! Could go anywhere.... :-)

  5. Love this! I've offended too many ideas and not many have come back again! I often think 'oh this idea is so strongly in my mind I am bound to remember it' but of course it then disappears!

    1. Oh yes, all the time. As soon as I think to myself, 'I'll remember this' I should put on the light and write it down.

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