Posted Mistresses Galore some time ago in draft form. just so I can stare at it now and again and see if anything inspiring comes to the fore. Not sure it will ever get done now. Writers do write best in isolation, so Covid-19 has done them a favour, but publishing isn’t the end of it these days. I have called writing the use it or lose it aerobics of the mind. My brain cells have lost their tone, hence the reblogging.
Where do my ideas come from? People often ask me this and I would tell them if I knew. Out of the ether, when I am at my most relaxed: through the hole in the ozone layer, under the shower or as I am nodding off to sleep. Ideas come at me from everywhere. I generally write them out while they are still fresh and leave them to my subconscious to work on for a bit. That’s what is called the one per cent of inspiration. After that I am ready for the 99 per cent of slog and sweat that will give birth to a story or an article. (I have had more success with the latter.) I would tell those who ask that ideas are easy; you hardly have to do anything to get them. It is developing ideas that makes for hard work. I would tell them that except that it would shatter the magical illusion of what a writer does.
To take a gardening analogy, an idea on its own is like a seed without the good earth, the water, the sunshine, and of course without the manure to nourish it and turn it into a fine, strong story.
I had an idea once that I still keep tucked into the back of an old notebook. I call it ‘Mistresses Galore.’ A truck passed me by one day that said: Mattresses Galore but I’d misread it. I jotted the thought down in the notebook that I keep in my pocket for such occasions. Then I tried out different scenarios in my mind, my favourite being that on the way to visit a woman in hospital, a man sees the van and misreads it. He’s about to visit his mistress. She was beautiful and exciting once, now she’s a cantankerous old bundle of ills. He has had several mistresses in his time and this was the last one, still living. As he walks this man remembers what each woman brought to the relationship and what she meant to him. There are various angles to developing this story. And one day I will work one out. It has been waiting for me to put in the hard yards for some time, now, far too long considering that now I also have to consider political correctness as a factor.
My thought was to explore what happens to people when old age gets in the way of their youthful optimism. (Ironically I was much younger when I had that thought.) Does the man make it to the hospital? Does it matter? If he gets there, will there be a romantic, hand-holding scene or will it be the mundane, stop start conversation of two people who know each other well? I imagine the ending. There is this image of a van with Mistresses Galore painted on the side panel and a bunch of lively young women beckoning through the back window to the old man to join them.
That is the one per cent. Writing is a craft that has to be worked on all the time. I call it the use it or lose it aerobics of the mind. Fabulous deas that languish in the bottom drawer tend to remain fabulous ideas in the bottom drawer. They need to be dusted off and taken for a walk. They need to be tickled under the chin and pampered and coerced into being something better than they currently are. Use it or lose it.