EVERY MORNING as he’s leaving for his short drive to the office or his long drive to the airport, my husband asks me, “What are you going to do today?” This question stymies me, unless I am lucky enough to have a doctor appointment or a dentist appointment or I need to go to the bank or buy some cat food—something concrete. Otherwise I draw a blank and have no answer, at least not one that would pass the “doing something” litmus test. I do not go to an office where I will answer phones and make appointments and send out faxes and open mail or enter data into a computer, perhaps with a birthday party up on the fifth floor in the middle of the day, or a Mexican burrito lunch to celebrate someone’s arrival/departure/retirement. I am not flying to Chicago for a business meeting. I am not going to work at a hospital where I might save lives or draw blood, along with all the paper work and insurance forms and disinfecting of bedpans. Instead, I work at home and my job is an artist, and let me tell you, it’s harder than it looks.
Artists never know what they’re going to do until the Muse shows up. Sometimes she’s gone for months at a time, and then suddenly she’s back, having arrived under cover of night, and you wake up craving oil paint and clean brushes and blank canvas and you’re instantly deep into that whole painting thing. This feeling lasts for a few days or a few months until one day, it ends. The Muse packs up and leaves, sometimes right in the middle of a brushstroke which is really annoying since you certainly can’t finish it alone. You’re nothing without her. You’re just a regular somebody. You putter around, maybe write a few blogs, work on the novel. Send off a letter to the editor. Do some laundry, clean the studio, submit slides to an art gallery, apply for editorial jobs. Go buy art supplies, you’ll need them someday. Go to the museum for inspiration, maybe you’ll run into the Muse there.
When I least expect it, she’s back and demanding we do something, anything, immediately. Look over there, what about that, what are those for? Next thing I know I’m gluing tiny beads onto a porcelain ball bought for that express purpose over a year ago—it’s finally time. And so I glue beads onto this ball for hours and hours, to what end God knows, but when it’s finished people will ooh and ahh and ask how long it took me, and I never tell the truth, that it took an eternity and all that time they were out for lunch with friends or at the movies with friends or lying on the beach with friends or hanging at Starbucks or shopping for clothes at the mall, doing all the things I don’t do but my husband wishes I would so I would seem more normal. “Go shopping with friends,” he suggests. But I’m not normal, I’m an artist, and when the Muse shows up, I drop everyone and everything to hang out with her and only her. She brings out the best in me, and really isn’t that what friends are for?
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.