Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Motivation? You don't need no stanking motivation... or do you? And, some inspiration from a Don Levering poem might help the cause

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre -- 1948

Don’t know what to tell my collaborator and friend Matt Kelsey about motivation. I’ve been thinking about it since I read his post Monday but I don’t have an easy answer. And that’s both a coincidence and an irony because I’ve been doing some reading on motivation and planned to write some on the blog about it later this week.

Matt, of course, is not alone in this. You could graph motivation across the arc of most lives. You’d see times when it spikes and times when it bottoms and times when it plateaus. In some ways, it’s a blessing to not be motivated because it probably means your basic needs are being met. I just finished a wonderful article in the latest Rolling Stone about people who live in their cars under the safe parking program in California. One story of a father who raised two kids for eight months in a leaky Winnebago was the essence of motivation. Each day the three took a long hike along a creek to the grocery store to buy fruit and vegetables with food stamps. They called it “The Journey” and he told the kids it was their jobs to clear leaves out of the creek so it could continue to flow clean.

Been there. Contrary to what a lot of comfortable burgers think, the food stamp life is nothing but motivation. And, when you stop being motivated by it, you’re dead.


So, you put in a full day of work, you earn what your family needs to survive, you come home and rock back in the Lazy Boy and you let go. Good for you. What more do you need?

Well, unfortunately, in Matt’s case that’s not enough. Why? Because Matt is a writer and writers are never satisfied unless they’re writing. Folks who do beadwork aren’t happy unless they’re making jewelry. Folks who can shape furniture out of wood aren’t happy unless they’re building.

The world is full of us, putting in our eight hours by day, stealing time at night for our art. You can teach writing all day long, but when it gets quiet at night, you’d better do some writing of your own. Donna Bachmann teaches art all day. We have often talked about this. Unless she squeezes out time when she’s not teaching to DO art, she loses her edge – as an artist and a teacher. This is the burden talent has visited on Matt Kelsey.

So, to Matt the only advice I have is personal. When my motivation has waned, the reason was usually that I had stopped paying attention. I had stopped seeing. One thing I’ve noticed playing ball is I hit better on nights when I’ve been studying the moon just before I stepped into the batter’s box. 

Here’s a poem I read this morning from a new book by my college buddy Donald Levering. The book is titled “Sweeping the Skylight” and if you’re interested, go to finishing line press. This is what I mean by paying attention, noticing, seeing…

The Wreck
By Donald Levering
He’s asking the driver
of the bus the nearest stop
to a certain body shop
where the car his wife had wrecked
is being fixed.
He turns to invite us
all into his fear.
Who gets out of a car with it
still in gear?
We learn that this is not
the first of her mishaps
to put him on alert.
Running water for dishes
she’d flooded the kitchen,
and before that,
she’d caught her hair on fire.
Half a block he’s quiet, then
The Chrysler can be repaired…


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