The Nature of Inspiration

March 2013 • Reading time:

It's almost night time here, and I'm laying in bed, facing a window full of twinkling reflections of cars driving by just below me. This apartment is on the second floor, and noisy, at a surprisingly busy intersection for two not-so-busy roads. Everyone drives by with bad rap music, much louder than they need to. The whole apartment is filled with old books and antique furniture, on the other hand, and it feels like it ought to be in Cuba or Puerto Rico or some novel from the 1800's.

But this is Echo Park, or at least just the edge of it. There are two coffee shops a few blocks from me, and a very tiny boutique grocer with only a few items of produce that cost a dollar or two more than the Von’s a few blocks in the other direction. One way leads to dirty city streets of Sunset Blvd., the other to a quiet chunk of suburb full of an odd mix of Mexican families and very serious hipsters.

I've been here, in Los Angeles, for twenty seven days.

For some reason, I felt like leaving New York would give me focus. The truth is I’ve spent the majority of my days unproductive. I’ve diligently gone to the coffee shops with my laptop when my internet wasn’t working, or sat in front of it at home when I didn’t feel like leaving. For once in my life, too, I have a very concrete plan of what I need to make to reach my goals. I’ve got it planned out, and all I need to do is execute - but instead I stall. Why?

Truthfully, I wasn’t very aware of my lack of discipline and progress for the first week and a half or so. I was guess I was just distracted, changing so many parts of my life at once. But those have evened out and become more normal, and the lack of progress has started to glean through my psyche. I’ve become more aware of how much I haven’t been reaching for those goals.

I have had a few moments of clarity this past week – I've read a few books that kept me up all night, feverishly taking notes and writing ideas for what to work on in the morning. I’ll read it, fill up and boil over with ambition, start making decisions I’ve been putting off, and even sometimes actually write like I’m supposed to be doing.

And in the morning, when it’s gone, and the thought of picking it up again feels like I might as well be lifting a boulder over my head, I tell myself I'm at least left with that little spurt of progress I made in that short inspired frenzy, I guess.

But honestly… that's not really enough, is it?

It's a day later, and I've given myself some time to think. I woke up, had a long and gentle start to the day, and made scrambled eggs. I walked to the coffee shop to work. I did, a little, and while the amount of progress I got through in retrospect was probably minute, I got some positive reinforcement on one of those projects I'm finishing, and generally avoided my stress-inducing inbox for the afternoon. Some days have to be that way - avoiding the administrative minutiae so you can actually work on something - but I tried for a few hours until my battery hit the red zone. It was decent enough progress to stop for a while without feeling guilt and walk back.

As I got to that noisy corner where this apartment is, I realized – in the month that I've been here, I haven't once ventured up the block to Elysian Park. It's right there, only a few blocks to the left of my doorway, but somehow it never got put on the docket. Maybe it would give me some perspective.

I found it and explored a little. There was a dirt path to start on, and not many people around, so it was quiet. Birds chirped, sun shone, and walking through that first section, I couldn't help but remember old serials I watched with my dad only two months ago of the Lone Ranger, riding through the rural desert of California, on dusty roads with sun and eucalyptus trees. Fighting bad guys. On a mission.

I considered veering off that pathway. I'd see fewer people, and more park; I could sit in the middle of the forest and pretend I'm in a time where there were no cities or cell phones or sneakers. When there was danger and adventure and a man slept under the stars on a long journey. I could pretend, and I'd enjoy that. This park was unknown to me, though; maybe I should stick to where people usually walk. If I left it, I might end up lost, or in some area I wasn't supposed to be in, or come across a snake or an animal or something.

While my brain debated, somehow my feet were just moving. I don't remember coming to some decision to do it – I just was on the path and then suddenly was wandered through brush and trees. I picked up a stick, I got cautious when things rustled, trying not to step on any snakes. And for a while I thought and wandered and looked, until I found this hill I'm on now, tucked just where the road is out of sight, visited only by this little sparrow that seems awfully curious about my writing.

Thinking now, those things my brain conjured up are sort of exciting. A little danger's probably exactly what I need. In fact, I remember reading something recently saying that being unhappy often comes down to being bored, and the opposite would be to seek the unknown, and to seek excitement. I suppose that's what I think I'm supposed to do at this point in my life; I suppose that's why I left. Perhaps Los Angeles isn't the right place for that, at least not at the scale I yearn for. Maybe that's part of why I've been in a funk.

But I think, too, I'm realizing that if I can just make my feet move, I can do the hard things, the things I know I want to do that scare me. That includes where I am and what adventures I can seek, but it includes the ambitions I'm building, too, and the work it takes to make them.

I can do this, if I make my feet move. I'm only a few steps from where I want to be.

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