A recent Rocky Mountain excursion furnished an occasion to visit one of our plentiful, anonymous and innocuous little Colorado towns. Hungry and unwilling to postpone eating until we spotted something that looked more promising, we stopped and experienced a completely unremarkable lunch. But the wisdom provided on our way out the door to inhale the magnificence of our scenery was worth the insubstantial Greek salad.
We paid our check and began to exit, with the bartender/waiter/busboy’s words our final contact: “Make sure you have enough film in your camera.” As a writer and student of humanity, I was immediately jarred by the dual message of his statement.
On the one hand, as one who made the transition to a digital camera some time ago, I pondered the allusion to dated technology. From a much more symbolic perspective, I recognized the need to keep my writer’s lens open at all times.
For those in my profession, I often wonder what causes “writer’s block.” If it is a question of subject matter, material is everywhere around us. No matter that I have the mountain splendor within an hour’s drive. The shore, the endless Midwestern cornfields with their richness and abundance and the frozen tundra with vast nothingness all have their power to intrigue and inspire. The responsibility to translate those visions to words is ours.
Some suggestions emerge. When you see others in the process of doing or being, open your possibilities lens and shut down your preconceived judgments. If you see a homeless man replete with sad face and unusual assemblage of personal goods, manufacture a saga of his journey. Imagine that your grocery store checker has recently scaled down her former life as an international spy. Know the freedom from restriction.
Discard the limitations imposed by prejudging the implications of what you write. Does it have significance? Does it enhance or improve the world? Is it publishable? This is all nonsense. Consider the art of creation the necessary justification. Did Monet wonder if there were societal messages to his paintings? Did Mozart analyze whether or not he could reap royalties on his sonatas? I think not.
Inspiration surrounds us. No need to wonder about doing justice to the subject matter. Assume the validity of your work, if only for yourself. Enter contests. Research magazines that feature subject matter pertaining to your passions. Listen to your little voice that suggests, “This is an idea rich in potential.”
Never wake up without plenty of film in your literary camera. Shalom.