Most of the time, I get nightmares. I’m not saying all of them are ferocious, though they can be, but it’s pretty much every time I go to bed, that’s what I get. Oddly, the only break I have is when things are going especially badly. In that case, sleep is like escaping for a while. But if things are anywhere from okay to brilliant, cue the nightmares.
Fine. I don’t tend to remember them much, I don’t very often lurch awake pressing my chest, and sometimes they are fascinating. Well, to me. Such as the time when I had some really scary one, woke up sweating in the middle of the night, went to the loo, came back to bed and slipped straight into another nightmare –– which was the Making Of the first one.
It was the same things that had frightened me in the first nightmare, but now with a film crew and, I suddenly remember, on-screen graphics.
Okay. So last night, right, I’m having a nightmare and I know it’s got something to do with the Post Office, but I’m getting things sorted or franked or whatever it is, when I stop.
Right there in this nightmare, I stop and it’s as if I turn to camera. Because completely unrelated to anything in the dream, I say the words “It’s about me”.
And what I mean is that the answer to a drama project I’m struggling with is that really it’s about me.
I don’t know why I said that and as it was in a dream, I can’t ask me, either.
But if I know now, talking to you, that the project isn’t at all about me, in the nightmare I was so convincing that I woke myself up. And I made a note of this. It seemed that crucial, that precious a solution.
Ultimately, everything you do is about yourself in some way. That’s certainly true with writing. You can’t help it. I’m minded of Fortunes of War, a 1980s BBC masterpiece, which was dramatised by Alan Plater from the novels by Olivia Manning. All the way through, it was Manning’s voice and yet it was also Alan’s.
And actually, maybe I can take that and my dream as a model. I’m not usually this unsettled about a project: I’m usually quite a practical writer and if it takes effort to get some things written, it’s now a process I’m used to. This one is hard and it’s also long and it’s a bit of a sacred trust.
So on the one hand I’ve got to get it right, but on the other, it’s up to me whether I get it at all. Intellectually, I knew I was vacillating over it all, but apparently it’s really got into me.
I’ll be happier when I figure it out, but it’s exciting to be facing something where I think I’ll be a better writer at the other end.