Do you know what motivates you to write (if you write, or sing or sew or whatever it is you must do)? Sometimes, if I am stuck, I like to take prompts that are out there in the world, and work on them. Or at least, I like to think about doing that. Sometimes I feel like I enjoy being stuck, as frustrating as it is.
I read a book of essays (that I didn't love) based on the prompt "What album changed your life?" That was a good one, and it stumped me. Plenty of albums have informed chapters of my life and some can serve as powerful reminders of eras--but has a record ever changed the course of my life? I remember listening to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow during a time in my life that was so full of earnest yearning I am surprised I didn't split right down the middle. If it weren't for the Reverend Horton Heat, I might never have gotten married--even though I met my husband at a Cherry Poppin' Daddies show, but did Full Custom Gospel Sounds... change my life? Or was it simply the soundtrack for a change that was already billowing up like a dust cloud over the desert?
Another prompt I think about is Where I Write by The Rumpus, (which alternates in my mind with Why I Write by George Orwell). Right now, I'm writing at the dining table because my parents are out of town. I thought I would be making much better use of my time alone in the house, while they are on their annual pilgrimage to the Oregon Coast--but instead, I've spent the time doing the things I can't when they're home: namely haunting the house in a nightgown and watching entire days worth of Law and Order. I would be too embarrassed to spend a whole day like that if anyone could see me.
I need quiet an the absence of a TV to write. I need a broad space at a desk or table that doesn't feel too claustrophobic.
But the noise of a busy public place works, too. At those times, I need a spiral notebook at the ready. For example, on the bus, or waiting for it, I sometimes catch myself rolling a phrase or snippet of dialogue over and over in my mind. I have to remind myself to write those things down. Two months ago I wrote, "Her cats were specific kinds of cats; one was a Balinese and one was a Russian Blue. Everyone else I'd ever met just had cats. But she said proudly, 'Emma is a Balinese,' like she'd made the cat that way herself." I have no idea where that came from or what it's for--I don't know anyone like that. In art school, my studio was a wreck of pieces of paper. Some had snatches of poetry on them, some were torn or cut carefully from magazines, some were found objects. I had stacks of small collages-in-progress stuffed into photocopied essays from lit classes. Charcoal drawings mixed with color studies. I would let nothing go, ever--because finding this piece of paper (the grasshopper transfer or the red watercolored rocks) later might trigger a new idea. The possibility of later inspiration was more important than the work ethic of the moment. I'm still like that much of the time.
I would like the discipline to get up early every morning and write for an hour. Instead, I lie in bed and think about all the things I wish were about to happen instead of what really will: driving through the awful traffic to the bus stop in the heat, going to a job that I can barely stand, coming home to my parents house instead of my own. But the things that are about to happen have been so far removed from what I want to happen for so long, I'm afraid it's a rut of thinking that my needle brain keeps skipping into, over and over and over. Everything will be hugely different soon, I'm worried that my same old self will find something else entirely to wish for.