“It is dangerous to let the public behind the scenes. They are easily disillusioned and they are angry with you, for it was the illusion they loved.” (W. Somerset Maugham)
The conversation involved an aspiring artist, and she was looking for advice about getting started in the mysterious world of the Professional Artist. The look of disappointment in the eyes of my companion was surprising. “You see it as a job?” she said with eyebrows knitted in worry. It was as if I had told her there was no Santa Claus. I had just told her that I, as Artist, did not wear a special cape and matching beret. Ouch.
Obviously the words that describe what I do daily are not the words she expected to hear regarding the romantic life of an artist. She was expecting to hear about midnight visits from the Muse and her sister, Inspiration. She was hoping to hear about the fascinating conversations we artists have over tea at the local sidewalk café, and how cool we look in our berets.
What I meant when I used the word job to describe my routine is that it is just that, a routine. I don’t wait for a funnel of fairy dust to pour inspiration down upon my shoulders and onto my magic paintbrush. My job as a painter is to go to work every day, just like millions of others who leave their cozy beds and tie on matching shoes to spend time at a desk or cubicle - or easel. We show up because that’s how the work gets started. Being an artist is a steady and continuous process. We don’t succeed due to dreams or vague inspirational moments or tea-time chats, but in the routine of showing up and working things out. Daily, weekly, yearly.
Inspiration, that sacred being we love to whisper about and hope for, happens to those who are ready for it. They don’t hand out trophies to marathoners who only think about running.
And the muse? It’s the routine of preparation and habit that lays down the path for the muse to follow to your doorstep. The more tended the path is, the easier it is for the muse to find you.
Lest you think I am a miserable drudge toiling with calloused hands and a hardened soul, believe me, I believe that a creative pursuit is the best possible way to spend a life. I love what I do, including the routine. And especially the inspiration. When Inspiration stops by for a quick chat and ends up staying awhile, I have been known to laugh out loud in sheer delight. I get to paint purple shadows and warm yellow suns and yes, I can wear a beret whenever I want. (I do not, however, own a cape.) Being an artist is my job, and it’s the best job ever.
If you think you’re ready, come on along. Bring your beret.
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.” (W. Somerset Maugham)