On Words, and Difficulty Sleeping

Tree Moss

I woke up two hours ago, after having fallen asleep for about an hour.

I had fallen asleep listening to music on my headphones, and was rather confused when I woke. I don’t usually fall asleep with my headphones on, and I don’t usually fall asleep in all my clothes, and I don’t usually wake up feeling like I’ve consumed alcohol. It took me a few minutes, but I worked out what had happened – how I had been out for a meal, and the drinks afterwards. I felt fine.

I listened to music for an hour – The Doors, Eels, Sufjan Stevens – then went to bed proper.

I couldn’t sleep. I can’t sleep. My head was filled with words, and my room hung (and still hangs) with heat. I turned the light on and wrote everything down – three pages of verse, of mixed quality, and hoped then my mind would rest.

But I’m still here, and it’s now three thirty. I’ll probably still be here at four thirty, maybe five thirty…

It made sense yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that. There was a project I was working on, and I was having trouble finding the words I needed. Further back in the week I’d even gone as far as cycling out into the woods to find inspiration, dedicating two solid days to wandering the banks of a stream picking at the stones, running my hands through moss, chasing the fairies through the water.

I’d come back from these trips with a good quantity of verse. It needed pruning, shaping, and lifting, but quantity was what I needed, and quantity was what I got. These last few evenings I’ve been putting the words together and taking them apart to the sound of Nils Frahm, and though it was hard work I rather enjoyed it. The poems didn’t come easy, not at all.

They’re done now, but my mind is still working, churning, analysing, it seems. I’m having trouble sleeping. In one way I welcome it – I love writing, and the lines that keep waking me are worth waking for. I’m not just awake – I’m awake and I’m creating and applying myself. Yet, at the same time I’m aware that these lines are coming from a kind of inner emotional intensity, and I find myself wondering whether over the next few nights I’ll find the lines I wake for becoming duller, that my sleepless nights will be due rather to strong emotions than creativity, and that I’ll find the early hours of the morning haunting me rather than I haunting them. But who knows. Who knows.

All I know is that I wish sometimes words would leave me alone. It makes me recall this academic talk someone gave – I watched it online, I think – and the woman on stage explained how, when interviewing Tom Waits, he had explained how he’d get pangs of inspiration whilst driving. How sometimes he wouldn’t have anything to write on or with, and he’d just look up at the sky and shout at some creative spirit up there. It was a way of negotiating with creativity when it interrupted his everyday life.

I don’t think my neighbours would appreciate me yelling out of my window at four in the morning, however.


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