-- and I haven’t a clue how to get started, or even what to get started on. I am uninspired.
It feels like: a panic made worse by knowing how it will loop back into itself, tying knots in my gut and making me miserable. There’s nothing to write and I can’t write it anyway!
I go looking for quotes on the internet and find unhelpful stuff like “apply butt to chair.” Unhelpful and frustrating because I’m perfectly aware that it is not my butt or my chair that is the problem.
But what is it exactly? What is it I think I’m missing? Some feeling of grace given to me – the world trembling and sparkling like lime jello, juicy, sweet, and receptive to my poking fork tines. Wouldn't that be nice? Leonard Bernstein has this to say about inspiration: “Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time.”
Maybe I’m not looking for the wonderful idea to be handed to me on a platter. Maybe it’s something else I want – courage or fearlessness or just for all the things that are crowding in to stand back for a minute so I can breathe freely onto the page. Well, “inspiration” does come from Latin, in+spirare (to breathe in).
Feeling unable to breathe freely makes me wonder if the anxiety is about time. Not having enough time, or wasting the time I do have because I really haven’t made a plan or intention of what to do.
This is hopeless!
And that is really the problem, I think, feeling hopeless.
I can’t write when I feel hopeless.
Hopelessness is like an enchantment, like Sleeping Beauty’s 100 year’s sleep – the entire kingdom made to sleep surrounded by viny, thorny forest growth until the “true love’s kiss” comes along, brought by the brave prince who manages to hack through the tangled vines and branches to get to the lovely, sleeping princess.
No one is going to save me. I am the sleeping beauty and I am the king who wants his daughter married off. I’m also the enchantment and the witch who cast it. I am, in addition, all the princes who fail to get through the viny wall, as well as the one who keeps hacking away until he finds himself at Beauty’s bedside. I have to wake myself up. I have to write through the drowsy, boring 100 years of enchanted sleep.
I’m not saying that writing is boring. Writing is the process of waking, of being present and aware of the world around me. It doesn’t really take 100 years. It just seems like it.
Some days, inspirational quotes might help, but something that inspires most days won’t catch hold at all when I am in deep enchanted sleep of noninspiration. I need encouragement, I need true love’s kiss, by which I mean, I need my heart to be strummed to remind me what inspiration really is – the breathing in of soul that gives life, awakens and heartens. Maybe I need a walk in the prairie. Maybe I need to talk to a real human being about real things. Maybe I need to read Anna Karenina or Tess of the D'urbervilles again.
But today, this quote did speak to me, from Alfred Kazin, who wrote about growing up Jewish in New York City in the twentieth century. : "One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in others' minds."
The writing makes its own enchantment, and not just for the writer.
This is where I am right now, at the edge of sleep, stretching into morning and the adventures of the day, yearning to write myself a home on paper.