Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inspiration (and the inevitable lack thereof)

Yesterday morning I forced myself out of bed. I forced myself to sit at the table in front of my laptop and I forced myself to find something to write about. I looked through the ever growing list of subjects I want to research and write about. Nothing. I opened up the last chapter that I tried to write, days ago, and stared at it. Nothing. I opened one of my old journals that I have sitting on my table, randomly came across the review of the time I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds perform in Lyon in 2001, put on the DVD of that very same performance, decided to post the old review on my blog and there you go, I felt like I could conquer the world again. Literally two minutes later I received a text out of nowhere from one of my aunts (who also happens to be my godmother and the one who introduced me to Nick Cave) in England with some words to “cheer me up on a day like this”. Another few feathers added to those wings I could feel growing once again. I posted the Nick Cave blog post, and then received a text message from the person I consider to be my best friend here in NYC; just at the exact same moment I was going to send him a message. Another happiness-inducing moment and it wasn’t even Noon…

I grabbed my camera and made my way down to Chinatown, to see if I could capture some of the Chinese New Year festivities. I have been shooting mainly black and whites these past few months and wanted to get some colour on camera, some happiness, despite the gloomy weather and impending rain outside. For once I was out of bed before 10am AND I had one full day with absolutely no obligations in front of me. I felt inspired again. I took some pictures of some gorgeous dragons and happy children and so much confetti and glitter and people, but I knew the photos were not really that good, and for once, it didn’t really matter that much. It felt good to be amidst people celebrating, even though I was alone it was fun to be part of some kind of shared feeling of happiness. I walked along Mulberry St and saw a restaurant with hearts made from lights in the windows and snapped a shot with my phone. I love seeing hearts and the word “love” in random places and have a collection of hearts and words in my phone and on my hard drive. The Italian man on the corner of the restaurant tried to entice me to jump out of the rain and drink a cappuccino inside, I hesitated, but thanked him and moved on (the look of disdain that the other man in his long, not so elegant, fur coat standing next to him gave me helped me make my decision). I walked on towards the Lower East Side, as I craved comfort and food, and both can only be found at Zucco’s, the French Diner by my work. Words were forming in my head and I felt excited to sit down to coffee, soup, some banter in French and some writing, before heading off back home to what I consider to be my safe haven, my cozy space where I can sing and dance to random songs without anyone knowing and cut out beautiful pictures, inspirational words and articles from papers and magazines, read for hours in the bath tub and drink as much tea and coffee as I want.

Of course, nothing ever runs smoothly, as I walked into a mini minefield of puns and sous-entendus, all based on something that I had said to a friend who had then said it in her words right back to one of the people in question. No big deal, except for my words were funny, but said in an American way are more embarrassing than funny. Cue blushing, denial, much laughter from others on my behalf, and then coffee, soup, French banter and more coffee, before I decided I must make a move out of the warmth and the comfort of one home (France), back into the outside world. During lunch/embarrassment/banter I was also texting with above aunt back and forth about life and love in general, about inspiration and the lack of it in the most recent weeks, and she reinforced the belief that I had done the right thing by quitting the job that made me so unhappy to do what I really wanted to do in life. She also said that I had real talent – something I really want to believe every day but never can. Coming from her it meant a huge deal, because she would never say anything without meaning it. Trust me, I know. A few more steps up on that ladder that I had been climbing up so diligently before Christmas and had fallen off of sometime during the last two weeks. A little bit more weight off those shoulders. I could even feel the pain in that muscle I pulled last week dissipate slightly. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.

I decided to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge, even though it had started to rain. The Williamsburg Bridge is the one place I go to to think, to cry, to ponder, to breathe, and it never ever fails me. If you walk over it you will always find some word of wisdom or inspiration etched onto the ground, the railings or the immense structures of steel that hold the bridge up. Last year, when I finished running my 5K for the women in the Congo I walked over the bridge, and I looked up and about 20 large black butterflies flew over my head, towards the water, and it made me feel so happy to see something so rare in the city. This time there were no butterflies, and the city was shrouded by clouds, and the rain kept coming down harder, but instead of being annoying and saddening it was the opposite. It felt good to walk, to think, to listen to music and to look ahead, as opposed to backwards. It was while walking over the bridge that I got the idea to write this piece. In any case, I got the title. That’s usually how these things start, I think of a title and the rest follows suite. The only problem is that if I don’t write the title down I tend to forget it…

I took the J train at Marcy and while waiting for the train I received a call from above best friend in NYC, yet again perfect timing. Sometimes there are things that only certain people understand, and once said out loud to someone who gets it they become less of a burden and you can let them go. Sometimes I have to fight the overbearing cloud of depression so hard that I give up the fight, but as soon as I admit that I have given up out loud I regain the will to fight it. I learnt a lot about myself in the past 5 years, and some things are best left behind, as they really are only stumbling blocks along the way. I just need someone else who knows me nearly as well as I know myself to confirm it so I can move away from it all, or at least have enough strength to walk past it when it rears its annoyingly stubborn head. I literally nearly skipped home to the song playing on the playlist that I had randomly selected in the morning, and made it home elated and soaked.

Two minutes later I felt at a loss. If you look at the dining table in my living room it looks like there are twenty things going on at the same time. Two laptops, notepads, papers full of writing (going back to 1995), pens, pencils, candles, photos, note boards, piles of clippings from magazines and papers, lists and lists of songs and places and art shows and movies and shows and places to visit and books to read and and and… Too much. Overwhelmed. I am trying to accomplish so many things and I can’t even get to one right now. So I grabbed my book (which happens to be so good I nearly missed my subway stop earlier) and ran the bath. Nothing like a bubble bath to calm the nerves and the brain and the feeling of being overwhelmed when one does not need to. But it was all going downward spiral-style… After the bath I had dinner and just crashed on the couch watching Law & Order (SVU latest season on Netflix), but I couldn’t even concentrate. Tried to distract myself by looking at Instagram and Facebook but became mildly irritated by the not so irrational thoughts of how my so-called female best friend here can never be bothered to like or comment on anything that I ever post or write about, except when she is involved in it. I hate being irritated by that, especially when I know full well it’s just silly to get upset by something that is never going to change. In any case, you see the pattern of the day… Up, up slowly, and down, down just as slowly. I tried looking at the photos I had taken in the morning, no real interest, so back to the couch, yet again eating too much, mindlessly, because I sure as hell didn’t need that cookie or three after the pasta dish I had just eaten.

And then, all of a sudden I remembered the title that had popped into my mind. I switched the TV off and put the playlist that had followed me throughout the day, and here I am, 40 minutes and 1,600 words later. I can’t remember when I exactly put this playlist together, but it contains some of my most inspirational songs, as well as some of my favourite songs (and yes, most of the time those two adjectives do go hand in hand, all songs from before I was born and all songs that I feel have always been around me somehow). I don’t want to be one of those people who require constant encouragement, to be honest I can usually muster enough self-encouragement together to achieve something alone, but sometimes, when my self-esteem is even more in the crapper than it usually is, it’s helpful to receive words from the outside, words that inspire me to go on and finally get something that I really want to finish done. And now I am going to go to bed with the book I referred to earlier and will write about it once I have finished it. Because once again I have been inspired to get something done today. I’ve lost count how many times that happened today.

I hope no one read all the way through this hoping for some huge revelation on how to be constantly inspired for the rest of time, and/or on how to succeed at life. I can’t help you with that, sorry. Trying hard not to fail at my own right now, and sometimes you just need to write about it to make it all seem ok.

Here is the playlist I mention several times above


Dylan Popowicz said...

Sorry I only just got to reading this piece. It has been a longer week, burdened with "nerves".

Inspiration, inspiration . . . the topic that runs through to the core of any artistic spirit. Bukowksi oft repeated in his poems (I paraphrase) "unless you can't live without writing, don't bother", but at the same time, "never force it, it'll come. . . .". I've personally slipped into the latter thought and found that the moratorium is a little long, and breathless, so I think it's better that you have a conscious struggle with it. As you pointed out, just sitting down and writing about is often needed. To Bukowski again: write about the spider if you have to.

Johnny posted a minute ago: "Obsessional neurosis has its advantages...". Something that I have often wished for, though the reverse of this is: does the value of perseverance/work etc hold if it is simply done obsessively (I suppose one would have to differentiate between a "physical" obsessiveness and a "mental" obsessiveness of a understood desire).

What do we do to become inspired?

I think when you ask for it to come from the outside you hit upon the reality of most things, at least creative things (forgive me, reading Hegel): the dialectical process, that at least needs an assumed other as part of the fruition of one's own ideas. You can't come to see things differently, or discover a hidden angle or shadow to an already known object/word/feeling without this dialectic, without the other. Inspiration, though felt internally, is really the other present within one's own creative thoughts.

I forget who it was (Derrida?) that claimed that the second we ask a question we are assuming the existence of some other.

So: write. Be prolific. As I like to remind myself: we get nowhere without some proliferation (without being scared that we might err, or that some path is unnecessary . . . we can only edit after the fact). If the multiplicity of things on your table is because you have the urge to pursue all of them in-themselves then don't hold back, but if they're all just different forms of the urge to complete something then do pick and chose, find the important kernels, the truly reflexive works.

I love you.

Paradox said...

You are right... Sometimes (all the time?) I struggle with the fact that I think I am going to fail anyway, so what's the point of even trying? I have to stomp all over those thoughts every day when I wake up, because, in the end, one can only fail OR succeed if one tries, n'est-ce pas?
As always you are a comfort and an inspiration. <3