“You know, I wanted to do that when I was a kid.” “Well yeah, but what do you do for money?” “So, what are you going to do when that doesn’t work out?”
“Oh. That’s nice.”
I am an artist. And I probably know what you’re thinking when I tell you that. No, I’m not tortured, I’m just like you and the closest five people to you. Only I have a problem. Because every artist—every violinist, or photographer, or ballet dancer—has something in common. Every one of us is constantly fighting. It’s an intense struggle that is at times crippling in severity. And it’s a battle that began long before any of us realized we were fighting.
It takes a very special person—and some would even say dumb—to recognize the ease of getting that degree in teaching or motorcycle engineering or welding and say, “Yeah, that’s stable and all, but…”
All it took was a little spark. Maybe it was watching Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, or hearing The Stones on the radio painting a red door black, but some time back in an artist’s life the allure of security lost out over the monster inside us. The monster that creates the drive. The monster screams ideas—great ideas—at us from the back of our minds. We tried our best to keep it at bay.
Everyone has this monster, but for a writer, or actor, or blues guitarist the monster is exponentially louder and more persuasive. It shouts at us as if from across an airplane hanger, and as a child we didn’t have the ability to resist its siren song. We couldn’t ignore the stories the monster told, or the melodies it played. We lost the fight to the monster, so we fed it. We couldn’t get away from it so we followed its directions. I’ve learned now that if you follow something, the only way to get it is to chase it.
We give everything to the monster including the garbage that no one else wants. We don’t do it for money. If money was what we were after, we’d still be in med. school. We don’t do it so the monster gets what it wants. We don’t even do it to stifle the creature of creation. We give it everything so the monster will get fed, and by doing so we make it stronger, giving it the power to take over our thoughts anytime it wants.
We fight to keep the monster alive. Even if it means playing a local gig to no one but bartenders, or sharing a our eleven-minute documentary on every website we’ve ever been on, even when a stranger gives our finished product nothing more than a passing glance, meets us in the eyes and says “I don’t like that,” we feed the monster.
Being an artist is having the least satisfying addiction available. We can’t finish one project without the monster shouting ideas about the next. By the time I finished Those Who Are Left I was halfway through with my second, and making plans for the third, The King of Evil. The monster doesn’t let up. It feeds, and feeds, and pumps ideas out until I can’t focus on anything, but what it says.
I have to fight just to do anything other than writing down the stories in my head. I have to fight to slow down long enough to get the words onto a Word document. I have to fight to edit the words, to make sure they come to life on the pages. And when the fight is finished, I’m done, exhausted. I hit save and pull up the next story, the one I’ve already begun. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll start a new document.
Because when the monster dies, we’re the ones who have to bury it.
So we fight.
Never stop fighting.