"And you can dance/for inspiration/come on, come on/I'm waiting..."
I think it's finally time I 'fessed up to something:
I have lost my groove. My writing groove, that is.
Anyone who has followed this website since its inception back in March 2000 might have noticed that from March through October of last year, I had a real groove going. Nearly every week during that time, I put a new story up on this site. Occasionally, it would be a story I'd written years ago, with a few notes explaining its origin, but every week something went up.
However, since last fall my groove has gradually disintegrated, for various reasons. Earlier this year, I tried to get my groove back by forcing myself to put something up weekly, but I'd sometimes be in such a rush to get the piece up that the quality of writing and editing would suffer. Eventually, I allowed the same story to stay up for two or three weeks at a time, which would aggravate me, especially if the story was an older piece, or if I didn't think it was that great in the first place.
Losing my groove has caused me to question whether it's important for me to be doing this. It's the old "why do I write?" question. It's obviously not for the money. The truth is that I do indeed love to write. As I've said before, I love the process and I love to tell stories. I write simply because it makes me happy, but sometimes, when I've got work and family and home and everything else going on, I begin to wonder whether I have to choose between writing about my life or actually living it. It seems like I can't do one without the other: without the experiences I have (and have had) in my life, I've got nothing to write. Writing (or at least becoming too obsessed with writing) could take me away from those experiences, but when I haven't written for awhile I feel like something is missing in my life. Or so it seems.
Maybe I'm just lazy, or maybe at this juncture I don't have the focus and motivation I need to put my thoughts, ideas and stories across in the way I'd like. I can assure you that I'm not at a loss for thoughts, ideas and stories. I simply can't find the time, energy and focus to put them into words.
So, I've lost my groove. But there is hope.
I think it is possible to get my groove back, but I can't force it. For example, I took off work the week of Memorial Day. During the three days between Memorial Day and the following Friday, when we were going to Virginia for my cousin Heather's wedding, I planned on doing some work in and around the house, and I planned on writing.
The house work progressed nicely. I spent much of those three days outdoors, cutting the grass and clearing out some dormant sections of our azalea bushes. The weather was miraculous and it felt great to be outside. Turning my attention indoors, I took some time to put a second coat of Martha Stewart Everyday Dried Hydrangea-colored paint on our bedroom walls. Say what you will about Martha Stewart, but she mixes up a fine batch of paint.
These projects went well and, though there were other things I would have liked to tackle that week, I was happy with what I had done. However, what I did not do was write. This bothered me as my vacation came to an end, but I eventually got over it because I enjoyed the week I had, whether I wrote or not.
Of course, the lack of writing still left me feeling somewhat grooveless, but I think I'm on the road to recovery. At this point, I feel like I should dispense some "wisdom" about how to pursue those impractical, yet important, pursuits you love (like writing, but you can substitute your favorite impractical pursuit here) while getting on with the details of everyday life. Unfortunately, I don't have any such wisdom, but I do have a few ideas:
1) In the Disney movie, The Emperor's New Groove, the emperor (whose theme song is sung by Tom Jones. How cool is that?) has to be turned into a llama and have a wacky series of adventures with a simple but wise peasant named Pacha before he gets his groove back. I don't think I want to go that way.
2) Dance. Maybe Madonna is right-you can dance for inspiration. While at Heather's wedding reception, my mom and sister had the DJ play the Talking Heads song, "Burning Down the House," for me since it was my birthday. I danced up a storm and found it quite inspiring, but by that point, it might have been the Coronas talking.
3) If you feel like you've lost some kind of creative groove, take some time to study the groove of someone you admire. I've been listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder's music this week. Now don't get me wrong--I'm not in anyway comparing my little groove to the enormous groove of Stevie Wonder. What strikes me about Stevie though, while listening to these songs that I've known forever, is how much his music springs from an amazing, unabashed love of life and all that it encompasses.
Great Stevie Wonder songs (and, aside from "I Just Called to Say I Love You," practically all Stevie Wonder songs are great) spill over with a love that has to live deep within the man's soul. Even when Stevie is angry ("You Haven't Done Nothin'," "Livin' For The City"), you can tell the guy is in love with having the opportunity to creatively live and express that anger.
It seems to me that Stevie Wonder's groove is the same basic love of life that is born within each of us the moment we are born. It's a powerful creative force that lives in the place where our heart, mind and soul intersect, but it is easily damaged, and can even be broken along the way.
I would certainly prescribe a dose of Stevie Wonder's music to anyone looking to find or repair their groove. I'm also finding Moby's Play CD to be quite inspirational to me at the moment--it's a musical work of art that was clearly recorded at the intersection of Heart, Mind, and Soul. But I'm certain you don't need my suggestions since everybody intuitively knows what music, literature, movies, art (or anything else) best touches their own soul.
4) Psychedelic lounge singer Jim Morrison said, "Break on through to the other side." Nike says, "Just do it." But I like how my Zen Master three-year-old son expresses it best. Jimmy will occasionally bring me his basketball (autographed by Philadelphia 76er Eric Snow at Phoenixville's own Big K!) and say, "Daddy, if you want to play basketball, PLAY BASKETBALL!" He says this in a particular "I'm imparting wisdom here, Dad," tone of voice, with this quasi-mystical look on his face that inevitably cracks me up, but I know he's right. If you want to do something, you ought to just do it and you might as well do it in CAPITAL LETTERS while you're at it. In the course of the doing, you'll find your lost groove eventually.
So this week, I wrote. I'm not sure if I've relocated my groove yet, but I feel like I'm working on it. If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to go listen to Stevie Wonder.
I'll see you right here next week.
(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print a hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2001 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)