I love songwriters. Their ability to tell a story in just a few minutes is something. Rodney Crowell is one of the best.
It Ain’t Over Yet with Rosanne Cash & John Paul White
It’s Such a Small World with Roseanne Cash
According to Wikipedia: This is a poster for The Lost Moment. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. It is used only to provide a review of the film. There were no decent trailers of the movie. So all I can provide is the poster and this German trailer. The film is in English. It can be found on Amazon.com.
I had seen the film a long time ago. I could not remember its name or any of the actors or even the story. Scenes from the film kept appearing in my dreams. For quite some time I searched for it on IMDB, Amazon, Turner Classic Movies and the New York Times website. I haunted flea markets and used book stores and used movie sellers, thinking it was in one of their bins. I spent hours and hours at this obsession and still no results. Until a week ago…
I was out driving in my car with no particular destination. It was one of those kinds of Sunday drives we make to get the worries out of our systems. I found myself in an area I didn’t remember visiting before. I came upon this old used bookstore in an out-of-way place on the side of a dirt road. Not the friendliest sort of place, but still I was desperate to find the film. I had to see this movie. Otherwise…well, let’s just say, otherwise.
I pulled into the parking lot beside the lone car. I crossed my fingers hoping the store in the old dilapidated building was open. I went to the door and turned the knob. Yes, it did appear the store was open it. As I entered the store, a bell above the door rang.
Across the floor of the store, there were dozens of wooden bins, webs falling from beneath each. Dust was everywhere. The paint peeling from the walls. The ceiling in places crumbling. The floor squeaked as I crossed it. The store seemed as haunted as my dreams.
Behind the counter, there was an elderly pale man, his hair gone white and his eyes a kind of gray that might be expected from one who was a ghost. He nodded to me. I nodded to him. Then he went back to what he had been doing before I came into the store.
Every bone in my body said leave. This was no place I wanted to be. Yet something had led me to this place. So I was determined to try to find the film here.
I began my search, hungry for the treasure. After hours of searching bin after bin, no luck. Outside the light was fading and the night was closing in. Finally I went to the counter to thank the old man for his time. He came from the office behind the counter. With tears in my eyes, I explained my dilemma. He shook his head. He seemed just as disappointed. I turned to go. Then I saw it. Well, I wasn’t sure that it was it. But I saw a DVD case in one of the displays. On its cover was a drawing of the ancient hand of a woman and her finger wore a large ring. “The Lost Moment” the case said.
I flipped the case over and there were three black-and-white photos. The first one had a man and a priest standing over a woman. Yes, that was my dream. This was the movie that had haunted my dreams for years.
Wine, women and song; that’s what Frank used to say. And he should’ve known since he used all three. Me, I’m into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Same difference, you might say. Only a little bit rougher. You dig. Like Pete Townshend’s fond of saying, “Won’t get fooled again.”
Well, the times they are a-changing, and that’s my guitar flying through the air. Just to let you know, I never was into Nirvana. Too much bang-your-head-against-the-wall-boys noise. It’s Knopfler and the Straits ‘cause we are the Sultans of Creole, we are the Sultans of Swing. Now, that’s guitar, man. A Stratocaster. I love Eddie Cochran and all those Summertime Blues. But as Pink Floyd used to say, we’re still learning to fly.
Cut my first CD last year. A bit Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath without the Oz. Man, that Lita Ford was bitchin’. She and Joan Jett were out of this world Runaways. Called the CD “Teeth.” Peter Max, the Maxman, offered to do cover art. Maybe a werewolf. But Richard Avedon did it for us, you know. Now he’s on the other side. He died, man. Went to that Photographic Studio in the Sky, man. Groovy.
Hey, Paul is dead. Yeah, and Sergeant Pepper ain’t feeling so good his own sweet self. Richard’s up there with the Ansel. Ansel Adams, don’t you dig? I’m not a frogman, goo goo g’ joob. Hey, the Troggs were super deluxe. Wild Thing. I met that groupie in a bar and went round the world and over the moon. Yeah, and I’m talkin’ Keith too. Knew the Stones. Think she was doing jumping jack flash for Mick and Keith.
Janis sure could blast. Had a great set of pipes. Down at Monterrey. Blew Mama Cass out of her pipes. Well, that’s what’s happening with the Sounds of Silence. Simon and Garfunkel, they broke up. You don’t say. Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard.
Way, man, we done that CD. Sold three million. Got Duran-Duran-ed on MTV. Right up there with the Elvis, man. That’s Elvis Costello, not the King. Graceland, you don’t say. Sun Studio in Memphistown—Elvis and Johnny and Jerry Lee and Carl all putting on their best Johnny B. Goode in his Blue Suedes. Groovy.
Wine, women and song to you too, man. Don’t forget everybody’s trying to be my baby. And I’m outta here. See ya.
What is a prompt? It is a trigger to get the subconscious boogying. Prompts come in all sorts and varieties. For the creative person, they can be very useful.
Food, that piece of broccoli lying on your plate, may remind you of a teacher you remember fondly. He was a wonderful teacher. You haven’t seen him for years and you’re wondering what happened to him. He had a kind face, an interesting face. He was a vegetarian with a fondness for broccoli. You haven’t thought of that man in twenty years. Over the next few days your mind keeps returning to that stalk of broccoli, how similar it was to your teacher’s face. Your mind just won’t let go of that teacher. Then it hits you. You decide to paint a portrait of that face. And you are off on a new adventure, rediscovering the face that lunched on a thousand stalks of broccoli. The painting you finally complete may be of the teacher as a husband or father, as an old man or a young man. That trigger, of broccoli, made you explore the many facets of that man’s life.
One day you are leaving school and you see a penny dropped onto the concrete. You reach down and pick it up. For some reason, you accidentally drop it again. It makes a sound. An interesting sound that causes you to go hmmmm. You drop it again and there’s that sound. You bounce that penny against the brick wall next to you. The sound is different. Pretty soon you are dropping all sorts of change onto the concrete and the dirt or against the brick wall. You are listening, listening hard. This activity is becoming all consuming. You spend hour after hour dropping things, not just change, but pots and pans, wallets and knives. You are falling in love with the sounds. Before you know it, you sit at the piano, trying to reproduce those sounds. Within a short period of time, you have a completed piece of music. All because of one little penny you found in the parking lot.
You are a scientist and you have been working on a problem for twenty years. It’s had you stumped. You are at a party and someone hands you a glass of wine. You accidentally drop a crumb into the wine. You start to drink the wine. You go to sip the wine. You notice that crumb staring back at you. Hmmm. You sit the glass onto the table, then you drop another crumb into the wine. They are close together. Looks like those two crumbs like each other. Looks like they may even want to date. You take your finger and stir the wine. Now they are across the glass from each other. You stir again. Now it looks like they are near, but not so near that they are waltzing. Again and again you stir the wine, fascinated by those crumbs in that glass of wine. You go to the lab the next morning and reproduce the experience from the night before. Bells and whistles go off inside your head. It’s the answer to your twenty-year quest thanks to that prompt of a crumb in a glass of wine.
You observe a grasshopper on a leaf. You watch him for a few minutes. He leaps to another leaf. He spends a few minutes there and you shoo him off. He is not a quitter. He goes to another leaf, and then another, and then another. It’s a dance and you are the choreographer. It hits you what a perfect dance nature can present. You start observing squirrels scampering in their quest for nuts. You watch your cat jump high in the air, your dog go catch. Before you know it, you have choreographed a complete new dance all because of that grasshopper.
Prompts, triggers can be very useful to a writer. They help the subconscious come up with new lines of poetry, new dialogue, new characters. Say you have a heavy case of writer’s block. You’ve been trying for months to shake it off. It just won’t quit. You set your writing aside. You are just not going to try anymore. You turn on a piece of Beethoven’s music. Perhaps “Fur Elise” or “The Emperor’s Concerto”. You sit there totally absorbed in the wonder of that music. Or you find yourself looking through some old postcards from the early part of the twentieth century, or you are reading a novel you have read at least thirty times. One line jumps out at you and knocks your subconscious on its rump. Suddenly you are writing, not just for a few minutes but for hours.
Sometimes when I don’t know where to begin a chapter or a blog or a story, I pull out a book of photographs. I start looking deeply at one of them, letting my mind explore that time and that place. There are other times I will be watching a movie and I get the answer to a problem that I had been trying to solve in a story. Or I read a line of prose, like this one from A Moveable Feast: “And then there was the bad weather.” It starts me on a whole new journey with a character or a story, detouring me from what I thought might be the plot. It may start me me off on a new story or a new poem.
We are lucky. Writers have so many choices when it comes to prompts. It may be a woman in a restaurant, a man in a nursing home, a blanket with a strange pattern, the cover of a book, a stack of dirty laundry, a neighbor’s cat, the words from a dream, a postcard. You name it. Anything can prompt our subconscious with inspiration.
So be brave and trust. You never know where that subconscious of yours will lead.
What is your favorite kind of prompt?