Sarah was 23 and a graduate of a fine school with an MFA in creative writing. Her parents encouraged her to go off to France, spend a month or so, and make some real progress on the novel she had started. She had finished the first chapter and then it just stopped. Nothing. Days went by and she sulked around her apartment getting depressed. This inability to create was new to her as she had never experienced this much difficulty with her writing. Her parents felt it was time for a change and she took them up on the offer of money. She fled her suburban American life full of hope.
After arriving in France, it took her a few days, but soon she found a charming apartment in a pleasant suburban town and settled in. After taking a few more days to get acclimated to her new surroundings, she sat down one morning for a day of writing. And again, nothing happened.
As the days went by, she realized that inspiration was nowhere to be found, she hadn’t left her writer’s block back in America – it came with her. She spent most of her time holed up in her small apartment, staring at a blank screen, unable to write a single word. Occasionally, she would get up and look out the window and watch the people strolling though the small neighborhood. Or she would text some of her friends back in the states and get replies of encouragement. She hoped for some inspiration, but nothing came to her. She was blocked.
On the morning of her tenth day in France, Sarah awoke to a rather dismal, rainy day but rather than sequester herself from the rain, she decided to venture out into the wet, French world. Sarah had always found inspiration in art, so despite the rain she would go out and visit two nearby art museums, hoping that it would stir something within her. She put on her long raincoat and grabbed the purple umbrella her grandmother had given her and out she went. The weather be damned.
The first museum was a small, but lovely old building filled with mostly impressionist paintings. She wandered around taking in the spirits of artists like Degas, Cezanne, Monet, and Pissarro. As she strolled around the wonderful paintings, she began to feel something stirring in her mind. Like a small switch was turned on. She stopped for lunch at the small museum café and then made her way to a more modern building housing works from the more contemporary world of art – Picasso, Klee, Mondrian, Rothko. The energy in this museum was much different. She began to sense a heightened awareness of something going on inside her body – an energy she hadn’t felt in quite a few months. Was the creative tide turning in her favor? She hoped so but, still, there were lingering doubts about her abilities to write. She left the museum with some optimism and hoped that this feeling would grow.
The rain had not let up so she opened her purple umbrella and made her way to the streetcar station that would take her back home. As she waited, her thoughts turned to the beauty she had witnessed at the museums. She thought of the struggles so many of these artists went through in their careers, and it made her feel as if her current despair was hardly comparable to these famous artists. Sarah knew she had an opportunity to live the dream she had had since childhood – to be a writer.
But those nagging doubts were still there, even if there was a sliver of optimism. As the streetcar arrived, she got on and took a seat and thought about how she could counteract those doubts. She looked around the streetcar and saw people who were heading home from a long day of work. People who probably had more pressing problems than she did. She looked out into the evening and watched the raindrops race down the window, the world outside a blur of gray and green. And then something happened, something that maybe she would have missed a few days earlier.
A young couple got on the streetcar, laughing and holding hands. They sat down across from her, their happiness and love for each other radiating from them. Sarah couldn't help but watch, her heart aching with a strange mixture of envy and longing, but, also, a joy in their happiness and love.
As the couple chatted and whispered to each other, Sarah found herself imagining their story. She saw them meeting for the first time in a crowded café, their eyes locking onto each other from across the room. She saw them falling in love, their moments of joy and heartache.
Sarah thought for a moment as she watched them, and quietly took out her phone and cautiously captured a photo of the two lovers. Sarah looked at the photo and smiled then pulled out her notebook and started furiously jotting down ideas. She wrote down character names and dialogue, settings and plot twists. The words spilled out of her like a dam breaking, and she couldn't stop them even if she wanted to.
When the streetcar came to a stop along a busy shopping area, the couple got up and dashed off, laughing as they plunged into the rainy evening. Sarah watched them as they ran through the streaks of rain. When the streetcar arrived at her stop, she felt exhilarated and alive. She thanked the couple silently in her head, knowing that they had, secretly, become her muse.
On her way home, she stopped at a small café and treated herself to a wonderful French dinner and half bottle of red wine. As she ate, she put more ideas down in her notebook. After paying the bill, she stepped outside and opened her umbrella and began to make her way back to her apartment. She wasn’t sure what awaited her in the coming days, but the dread she had been feeling seemed to have lifted. As she opened the door to her apartment building, a smile of confidence crossed her face. She thought to herself, I think I’m back.
What have you been struggling with lately?