I have far too many ideas in my head.

All fighting to get out, competing for my attention.

This is not a good thing. What I want is clarity, focus; mental definition and stability in a time of personal and global chaos.

You can have too many thoughts. It’s a distraction. I want to write.

I want to write short novels.


I want to be churning out one, two a month.

I want to be finishing a story every fortnight.

I think I need to, to purge the cranial overload.

Trepanning is what the ancient Greeks used, to purge the brain.

It was a physical thing, not a metaphorical mental thing.

Brain damage isn’t caused by the blow; it’s caused by the build up of fluid; the blood, the bile, the miscellaneous brain juice.

The Greeks knew this.

Trepanation: drilling a hole in the skull to relieve the pressure and the fluid.

Anaesthetic wasn’t invented until 1831, when James Young Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform.

I’m guessing trepanation was kind of painful.

Simpson was a doctor, and Scottish. So was Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin.

Both were discovered by accident; Fleming famously left a Petri dish unattended and found an important medical breakthrough sitting there when he got back.

James Young Simpson tops that; my favourite medical discovery story of all time.

As I remember it Simpson was actually researching the field of anaesthesia. One night he and his colleagues took a break and sat about drinking and discussing their research.

They then decided to just experiment with various gasses. They got drunk, and decided to experiment with chemicals.

This is also how The Beatles went from Revolver to Sgt. Pepper.

They opened up the chloroform, inhaled and all promptly collapsed on the floor, waking up several hours later with their research pretty much done.

When I sat down to write this it had no direction, no goal or aim. 19th Century medical discoveries were the furthest thing from my mind.

Scotland also invented the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell) and the television (John Logie Baird.)

You can’t help but think Scotland kind of let itself go a little.

I used to live near John Logie Baird— or more where he used to live. Obviously he’s quite a bit less alive than I am.

I used to live in Bexhill-on-Sea. Literally 100 yards down the road there is a house with a blue plaque ‘John Logie Baird Lived Here’ and the dates of his residence, which I forget.

About 200 yards up the road was a huge house where Desmond Llewelyn lived before he died. He played ‘Q’ in the James Bond films.

Bexhill had two other claims to fame: the invention of motor-sport (dubious) and Eddie Izzard once lived here.

He opened my college (High School, not university.)

I always used to question that decision. I love the guy, but the first thing you see when you walk in is a plaque which essentially says ‘Opened by a cross dressing comedian.’

It was kind of appropriate; the place felt like it was run by cross dressing comedians. And not funny ones either.

Every idea in my head always gets back to education somehow. It’s all over my brain like crabs on a sex tourist in a Bangkok brothel.

Of all the ideas in my head, none are here.

This hasn’t helped, not in the slightest.

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James D. Irwin is a British writer based in the Hampshire countryside. His work has appeared online, in print, and on stage. He can be contacted at [email protected]

2 responses to “Attempted Metaphorical Trepanation”

  1. “I have far too many ideas in my head.”

    “All fighting to get out, competing for my attention.”

    As a young writer also, (high five across the seas) I both enjoy and struggle with too many competing ideas fighting for the attention of my pen. Calming this chaos, is, in my opinion, the most difficult task of learning this craft and properly transcribing it. Therefore, mutual solidarity with you my friend. Same too for writing successive short novels into the night.

    It should be no wonder we write for a website called The Nervous Breakdown.

    • James D. Irwin says:


      It’s weird. About two months after I wrote this piece I actually started writing a novel that was intended to be one of numerous novellas… I didn’t finish it until just after the New Year and it came in at about 50,000 words— a short novel really.

      And the whole time I was writing it I didn’t have a single good idea until the week before I finished it. So I guess that’s a way to keep creativity at bay…

      There is also the ocasionally painful lesson in having an idea, and having an idea that has enough substance to support a prolonged piece of writing…

      Still, it beats trying to get a real paid job…

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