4am on a Saturday and I'm in that phase just between sleep and wakefulness, my brain turning the old cogs. There's a snippet of an idea for a song bouncing around in my head and I'm wondering - if I leave it and try and write it in the morning, will it still be there?
The answer, of course, is no.
It's very rare that I sit down with my guitar and think "Right: I'm going to write a song now" and anything useable emerges. I'm fully aware that there are plenty of people who do precisely this: and probably a few of them earn money from doing so. Usually these days what will happen is that I will get a fragment - half a lyric and a bit of a tune - whilst doing something else and will make a note of it on my mobile phone. I'm a bit ruthless with these and if they haven't developed into anything within a week or two I delete them and assume they never will.
On this occasion I'd had two quite similar fragments appear in short succession. Initially I'd thought that maybe they would be part of the same song, but then the second fragment became a song of it's own and for a while it looked like the first would sit, neglected, on my phone until the next clean-up operation came along.
But somewhere my brain must have been working on the problem; because here I was - awake at 4am and trying to decide what to do.
Finally, aware that I wouldn't get any sleep with the words roaming around in my head like lost sheep looking to be herded somewhere, I got up and made the short journey to my desk: accompanied by the appropriate amount of stumbling over cats in the dark and reaching for light switches that were not where I remembered them being.
With the words now written down I retired to my bed, switching off lights and trying not to step on the cat, hoping that now I would now get some sleep.
And then the next line came.
Swearing lightly under my breath and trying not to wake Herself I clambered out of bed, danced around the cat, groped for the light-switch and wrote the next bit down. It was around this point that I realised my fragment fitted in quite nicely to the idea - so I now had a promising intro to a verse, a bit of a chorus and a bridge.
Back to bed. Close my eyes, aware that it is now 5am and I need to be up at 7 as I have a one day course in Blues Guitar ahead of me: a course that I'd quite like to be awake and sentient for if it's not too much to ask.
Fragment four arrives. Part of verse one. This time Herself stirs and asks if everything is ok and in a slightly tense voice I reply that yes it is, it's just inspiration calling at an inopportune moment. She goes back to sleep and this time, over the next 30 mins or so, I pretty much get the rest of the song written, aside from the chords which will have to be worked out at a more sociable hour.
As a result of all the to-ing and fro-ing I'm now awake before the alarm at 6:30am and so I pour myself a bowl of breakfast and switch on my computer. Once we're through the interminable time it takes for everything to warm up I log into Word and, with a few adjustments, type up the scribble on my piece of paper into something legible without having to go and find a modern equivalent of the Rosetta Stone.
Don't get me wrong - I like being creative and am pleased with the resulting effort, so much so that I resolve to play it at my next appearance at a Folk Club (where it goes down like a lead balloon much to my disappointment) - but I do sometimes wonder how it works.
Terry Pratchett wrote that ideas are like bolts of lightning and that some people are more susceptible to being hit than others and added that the right ideas might not always hit the right heads: which is one of the many reasons you see so many surprised looking cows. Agatha Christie would answer, when asked, where she got her ideas from, "why Harrods of course; where else?"
I think that a large part of it is believing in the first place that you can be creative and then actively trying to be creative - once you do those two things the ideas will come: some easier than others perhaps, but still come.
As for me well, my ideas may not change the world or, apparently, be suitable for folk club attendees, but sometimes they amuse me and my friends and maybe that's enough