Motivation should come from within. That’s what everybody says. You can read it in self-help books and on motivational posters. It’s what every well-meaning friend tells you.
Needing motivation from someone else is a crutch.
Ideas have always been easy for me, but being able to execute on those ideas has been trickier. I start projects and I can even know that a piece of work would be good if I finished it, but I lack the motivation to finish.
I end up staring at a blank page that never turns into a script. I look over old notes from a book project that never made it. I look at ideas I love — projects stillborn yet still full of possible life — and I feel powerless to breathe life into them. I crave a flesh-and-blood motivation — admiration, love, approval, passion — to inspire me to make my art.
I long for a crutch to help me walk.
For many years, I had wanted to make a film. I had ideas and I talked about making a first short film for a long time. But for years it was only talk — until something changed.
In 2004, I had several scripts written, but I hadn’t had the motivation to get over my fear and do something with them. Then I met a woman.
I met Lydia on Sept. 21 of that year. Over the next few weeks, we talked constantly. She loved movies and she seemed to think I was wonderful. She was impressed that I wanted to make films. I showed her my scripts and let her pick the one she thought I should make. I was intoxicated by the incredible feeling of having a brilliant and impressive woman encouraging me and praising me.
She became my muse.
All of the things that had seemed to be obstacles in the past — lack of money, lack of knowing the right people, lack of connections, lack of adequate knowledge and confidence — fell to the wayside as I fell under her influence. She didn’t change anything about my script. She didn’t offer any brilliant advice about how to make the project happen. She didn’t change anything external.
She was simply the inspiration for something I had always been capable of doing.
Less than three months after I met Lydia, I shot my first film on Dec. 10-13. After months of struggles in editing and sound post-production, “We’re the Government — and You’re Not” was finally a finished 10-minute short film. It went on to be accepted by 20 film festivals in five countries and it won a handful of awards, including audience favorite in a few places.
But none of those awards and honors mattered as much to me as when I finally got to take my muse to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to a film festival — a festival which showed my film and made me feel as though I was offering my work to someone I loved by then.
My muse gave me the motivation to do what I had always been able to do. I did it for her love, her approval, her admiration. She was my crutch. But the film got made.
This story isn’t about Lydia. As much as I still admire her, we have gone our separate ways and have very different lives. She isn’t in my life and never will be. But she mattered in so many ways. She was my muse and there’s been no muse since. Is it just coincidence that I haven’t made another film?
I have a burning need to make good art — and to be able to take the work to her and say, “I made this because of you.”
If that’s a crutch, then give me a crutch. I need a crutch to walk. I need a crutch to do my best work.
I need a muse.