It’s late on a Saturday night and I’ve developed the insatiable desire to write. Hmm.
Usually when I have a spark of potentially impactful writing juices they hit me like a ton of bricks; you know – they make the decision for me. And I sit down, usually with a bottle of wine on my California patio, and I write. No think. Just do.
But tonight, for some reason, I’m meandering aimlessly around with no direction and no idea where to start.
Seth is snoring on my basement sofa, so I step outside for a moment. He’s going to be my roommate soon, so I suppose I should probably get used to this, but perhaps the eternal shivering that’s descended upon me will excite some sort of spark in my brain. Oh, and also – we’ve just smoked a metric dickload of marijuana and watched three hours worth of Porcupine Tree’s live shows.
Creative brain: ACTIVATE.
By some stroke of magic, the tundra walk has stirred up something – not a concept nor a storyline, but the idea to look through my notebooks for inspiration.
I carry these notebooks everywhere. These wretched little black and red notebooks and a million sharpies with chewed up caps, because, well, I get anxious. Mostly full of lists, these notebooks also contain quotes from friends, strange observations, story ideas, potential song lyrics, chord progressions, inspirational messages, hate notes, and of course, the occasional drunken sentiment that can only be met with “what the hell?” upon a later reading. And for some reason, until this moment, I have completely forgotten the purpose of these notebooks.
I want to write. I’m zero for all of them when it comes to ideas. But I want to write. I fucking need to write. Dear God, staring at the pieces on this blog, it’s been too fucking long. I feel like I’ve spent the last few months living in a hole of hatred for moving back to a place that – and I’m really, really sorry for saying it openly – I find completely uninspiring. The only solution is to pull out those notebooks and start searching feverishly through them for any shred of an idea that I can craft into something tangible.
Okay, let me back up for a minute. Living in a hole of hatred. Or do they call it denial? I spent the last several years living and working in Los Angeles, a grand series of ups and downs that had ultimately left me feeling like a better opportunity, which fell into my lap, close to my hometown, was a great move. I was completely and incandescently in love with this idea and at times I find myself forgetting what it was that I fell in love with in the first place. Ah, well. Moving on.
Fingers running sprints down the pages, it’s desperately apparent to me now just how many of these thoughts are half-finished. Two lines of a chorus here, a hanging sentence there – pieces of pieces of a greater puzzle that beg the question – just how do I put this together? Is it even possible to put these scattered pieces together?
Have you ever tried to do a puzzle without being able to see the picture of what it’s supposed to become? I tried once, and it was hard as fuck. Not surprisingly, I might add – that puzzle never got finished. Not unlike so many of these wafting notebook snippets.
This is both daunting and in a strange way, comforting.
In college, my fellow designers and I lived and breathed the words of our professors. One lesson that has always followed me, for better or worse, was the teaching to “never fall in love with an idea.” Fully an adult, I sit here, now drinking a glass of red wine and, hell, finding serious contradiction in this notion. Much like in the way that people develop an inability to fully love others because of past grievances, I think somehow believing it best not to allow yourself to get too attached to an idea, can, at times, beget an even greater failure.
I conceive ideas every day. I work on those ideas every day. Every. Single. Day. Hell, I spent my Saturday evening sitting at Starbucks, my home away from home, checking things off those godforsaken lists. They nag at me constantly. Sometimes those ideas take longer than expected to come to fruition, but the important thing is that each day they become a little more real. Little by little, the work is being done.
I think after so many years of watching half-finished things pile up, I came to a point in my life where it became clear that to make any forward progress, the mentality that an idea must always meet perfection just has to be set aside. Just do. Do, and worry about perfection later. There’s always room for improvement.
I had an evening of dinner and drinks with an old writer friend last week and he spoke of the “idea” that his sister believed the best approach to life was to hold a job Monday through Friday, in order to enjoy Saturday and Sunday. Although respectful – not for us, we agreed, as we each expressed our desires to lead lives of everyday creative exploration and finding genuine happiness in that grind.
You see, for his sister, the idea that attaining perfection through a 9-to-5 approach on life is the one that she’s fallen in love with. On the other hand, she might not be in love with it, but either way, it is the idea that she has chosen to love. From what he’d said, it sounded like it was the right idea for her, and I commend people who make choices and follow them to the end.
So often for the creative minded, we face an army of folk telling us that, on the grander scale, we shouldn’t fall in love with the idea of living outside the static norm, that success should not be found through failure. It’s bullshit. Fall in love with the idea that you have the determination and will to take your ideas and make them real, make things happen that you thought otherwise couldn’t. Turn an evening of brain-drain into something finished, that you can read back, and remind yourself why you’ve chosen the path you have. Allow yourself to fall in love with the idea that whatever it is that you seek can be found, if you put in the time to look.
I really wish I’d stuck that puzzle out. It disappeared with the guy who brought it along on our trip, and now I’ll never know what it might’ve become. And as far as the greater puzzle goes… the life puzzle, so to speak – so what if you don’t have a fucking reference picture?
Yeah, maybe it’s a little bit harder. Maybe it takes a little bit longer. Maybe you have to try a whole lot of the wrong pieces to find the right ones. But maybe it’s worth it to step back see a finished product at the close of that notebook. I think that’s where I’m at with life right now, Pennsylvania life. The opening ceremonies of winter come complete with this scathing desire to hole up in a pile of blankets, watch hours upon hours of concert DVDs and hibernate it out until spring.
I knew what I was in for. I made the choice to come here. And for several months, I was seriously in love with the idea that coming here would allow me to finish a chapter that was otherwise left for dead. And now, damnit, I am making the fucking choice to allow myself to love that idea. No more half-finished thoughts and unchecked boxes, and no stone left unturned. It’s always up to you to make the life you want.
Most great things in life – great ideas – come without a picture. There is something to be said for the ability to create one for yourself. To believe in an idea, a movement, and then to take the time to collect the right pieces; make it whole. A painting, a song, a move, a relationship, an anything – there is no progress made in wasting time believing that a finished picture can’t be exactly what you’ve imagined. And sometimes, there is just as much a grace in drowning as there is in swimming blissfully along.
And now, back to that unfinished list.