I am cursed.
I say this because the other day I was trying to explain to a “non-creative” person what it is like to be an artist. Whether you are a musican, a singer, a dancer, a painter, a graphic novelist, a director, writer, producer… you are in some way a slave to “the Muse.”
This of course isn’t in any way a new thought, and creatives throughout time have talked about “the Muse” with both admiration and distain. Instead of speaking specifically about “the Muse,” my career coach Barbara Deutsch calls it your “pilot light.” She talks about the fact that “Creative people have a little light inside them right by the heart, like the pilot light on a stove. It burns even when the stove’s not on. Your creative pilot light went on the moment you realized what you love to do but if you don’t stoke it, it will burn your insides out. The pilot light never goes out. This is the reason creative people have to keep pursuing the dream.” (Open Up or Shut Up! p. 29)
This to me is both an incredible blessing and a curse.
From the time I was two years old there was never a question that I would be a performer. My mother tells the story that while we were in a church service, a choir was singing, and I decided to march my little toddler butt right up there to sing along with them. My “pilot light” was on.
Over the years I have entertained the idea of doing something else with my life, something more traditional, perhaps being a lawyer, a publicist, a journalist. I have full confidence that if I had decided to do anything else as my career I would be rockin’ it out right now, perhaps the top of my firm or covering incredible stories in undiscovered parts of the world. The truth is that I couldn’t deny the fact that my path is that of an artist and I made a choice, a fully conscious choice to dedicate my life to being who I truly am at my core. And the thing is, this is in no way an easy path, or a way of life that is full of freedom.
In explaining it to my friend, I told him that the feeling that lives inside of me is very similar to when he looks into his daughter’s eyes and feels overwhelmed by the intense love he feels for her, and he just has to hug her and hold her. That heart warming, all encompassing impulse to show someone what is inside of me is what I feel every day. It’s like the pilot light gets so hot it’s about to burst out of my chest and will devour me unless I somehow release the pressure and let it through.
I feel like if I don’t listen to the Muse and stoke the pilot light, that spark inside of me gets violent and angry and starts to fester. It becomes dark. It becomes my Doppleganger. When I don’t listen to it, it follows me every moment of every day. It whispers in my ear, laughs at me, and steals my joy. This Doopleganger, this mirror image of myself, is my greatest ally and biggest weakness.
I really have no great new idea or question I’m trying to pose in writing this. I simply wanted to share my journey and talk about the dark side of the artistic heart, my artistic heart, the one that will eat me alive unless I feed it.
Tomorrow my Doppleganger and I may be at war, but today we are one in the same as I type these words on the page. What is yours doing? Leave a comment below.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Helenna’s Blog Dec 9th, 2011