Awhile ago I was struggling to get started on a new novel. A friend suggested I get myself a little totem, something I could refer to that would remind me why I write. I was feeling so stuck and uninspired I couldn't even think of what my totem could be. She asked if there was some book that had perhaps originally moved me so much it made me want to be a writer. I knew instantly what that book was: Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge.
There's a particular passage that, when I read it decades ago, changed the course of my life. Knowing that books truly can open people's minds and change their lives has always been the thing to light a fire in my furnace of creativity and will-power. When I'm just not sure why I do this or who I'm doing it for, I return to this passage. I tore the page out of the book and put it in a frame. It's now sitting on my desk and it's my totem, my personal item that I know in an instant what it means when I look at it. Here is my favorite line from it:
Perhaps you could use your own personal totem. Something that will either get you fired up in the first place, or rekindle a passion that you once had but has dimmed out lately. If you can't think of one, don't force it. One will come to you, and you'll know it when you see it. Ideally, it will be something you can either carry with you or put in a place you'll always see it. It should be personal to you, something that speaks to your heart. It won't make sense to anyone else, and it might not even be something people give a second glance to. But you'll know. You'll feel a little rekindling, like a dying coal being blown on and brought back to life, each time you look at it.