There is an infamous story about Tom Waits that’s mentioned Anne Lamott’s book, “Bird by Bird,” and by Elizabeth Gilbert in her TED talk, where he describes an experience with the creative process. The story goes as follows: Tom was driving on the LA freeway when he was struck with inspiration; a few notes of a melody hovering on his mind. He wants this song, he wants to hold onto this of course, but he’s on the highway, far from anything to write it down, and instead of becoming panicky that this song is going to vanish from his memory and he’ll never be able to recover it, he looks to the sky as if to speak to the source of inspiration directly and says, “Excuse me, but can’t you see that I’m driving? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment.”
I love this story. I admire it, and I wish I could live it. I wish I could control my creativity and have it come to me when convenient, like when I’m sitting in front of my computer with a few hours to kill. But it pretty much never does. Inspiration doesn’t hit me during traffic jams, but instead, in the last few moments of lucidity as I am about to drift off to sleep. The last few hiccups of thought from my brain will of course be some idea written in whole sentences that I feel are actually worthy of putting out to the world, when I have struggled the entire rest of the day to come up with something I don’t truly believe is total crap. In order to protect these thoughts, I would have to rouse myself from near-sleep and get my brain active enough to type on my computer what it has floating around. Which doesn’t sound that difficult, unless you’re the one under the covers and your computer is in the other room and you know that battery isn’t charged and you’re pretty sure every pen in your house is out of ink and you’ve already gone to bed too late and you have to get up for work the next morning.
Then, I start to get into negotiation with my inspiration. I try to convince myself that this thought is so important that I will surely remember it in the morning (I won’t). I get angry with my inspiration, as Tom Waits did, basically telling it to come back at a better time and I’ll listen then. And of course my inspiration is completely spiteful and buries the thought so deep it can never be resurrected. So my only real course of action is reach for my iPhone and jot a few notes in Evernote and hope they make sense in the morning (they don’t always).
….this post originally started as an explanation to why I’ve been finding it difficult to write recently, but I sort of got off track from the main point. My inspiration also doesn’t like being told what to do, apparently. Beyond my problems with a creative force that is clearly acting like a bratty teenager, there are a few other things that have been creating such shifts in my life that it’s hard to focus on anything but keeping stable for the moment:
1) We’re moving. From Los Angeles, CA to Hendersonville, NC, which is my hometown. I’m trying to come to grips with this and not listen to my 16-year old self, who keeps loudly sighing in my ear about how lame I am to be moving back there.
2) We don’t know exactly when we’re moving yet, but it seems pretty certain it will be around the end of the year.
3) I’m caught in a weird limbo of wanting to savor every last second of Los Angeles and spend every waking hour with my friends, and at the same time wanting to disconnect completely to make this upcoming transition easier. This isn’t helping my general sanity.
Despite the fact that I selfishly feel like I’m the only one who can truly understand my current struggles, I realize that I’m obviously not the first person in the world to make a move such as this. In fact, most people I know have already been there, done that.
Any advice on how to keep sane would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading xoxoxo