For much of my life, I’ve had insomnia. My mind races with ideas. It isn’t anxiety, not always. Just ideas going through it and distracting me from sleep. Perhaps it’s that I’m really a night person. When I’ve had the chance to work night shift, it seems to suit me. Whatever the case, since I was a teenager, I’ve always had trouble falling asleep at night. Often, to try to quiet my mind, I’d tell myself stories. It’s something I’ve done for almost as long as I can remember.
These stories were often indistinct, the inventions of a mind too tired to be awake and too restless to sleep. One character regularly figured into the stories early on. His name was Jack. A roguish sort, heart of gold, rescuer of children. Mainly, he was the guy who kept me safe from all of the terrible things in my mind at night. Jack would be distilled and morphed into different characters in later stories I would write, but he started as my shield against insomnia.
I mention any of this only because there is another common feature to many of those stories. They often began with the phrase “I need you to do something.” The words were often spoken by an older man, white hair, long grey beard. The “something” was never described. It appeared in my mind like a prelude before jumping right into the action. The “something” would be revealed as the story unfolded. It was my version of “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” The phrase set the stage, and I could relax into the story, eventually falling asleep.
As anyone who has ever kept a pen and notebook by their bedside could tell you, if you don’t write down your ideas when they happen, they get lost easily. Probably none of those stories were wroth writing down. But as I sat here, trying to write a story beginning with “I need you to do something,” I found myself wishing I could recall them.