For most of my life I’ve been a master procrastinator. I always thought my gift for magnificent starts, and nothing finished, meant that I possessed an inadequate muse.
I thought my muse was flighty, a little bit fickle, bouncing from idea to idea with a curiosity bump that would do a cat proud. I was wrong. I have a powerful muse; firing ideas at me at such velocity I think I should wear a mental baseball mitt.
In order to get in touch with my muse, and perhaps increase my control of it, I named it Victor. Why, you might ask? Because he revealed himself to me in a dream; and he looked very much like a young Victor Petrenko, the figure skater. I don’t argue with the muse.
Controlling a muse feels very much like getting on a bucking bronco. Screw your hat on tight, grip as hard as you can, and hang on for the ride.
So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was serving not one muse; but two. To complicate matters even more, the second muse doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to my thirty-three year old son, Joshua.
Josh was born with cerebral palsy. He’s non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and incredibly bright. He possesses more drive, determination, and creativity than I ever dreamed of. I discovered his love of art by accident.
For a lot of reasons, my husband and I decided to home school Josh when he was in his early teens. I also decided to take a watercolor art class in an attempt to relieve stress. Josh would watch me paint, and one day he got angry.
When I looked at him I saw him looking at my paper, then he looked at his fist, then back at my paper. He was telling me, as well as he could, he wanted to paint. I set him up with paper and paint and thought he’d be happy to finger paint.
I was wrong. He threw a major tantrum complete with a lot of leg kicking and guttural vocalization. Slowly, he looked at his hand, then my paintbrush, then back at his hand. I understood then that he wanted to paint pictures, not play with paint. An artist muse was making itself heard.
From that moment on, I started to serve two muses creating a whole new set of problems. Before, I had a writing muse that loved new ideas, interesting characters, plots that excited and energized me.
Josh possessed a drive to paint. I could feel an intense want-to pour from him. When I would write, I could feel his eyes boring into me; willing me to get done so he could have his turn.
When I helped Josh work on his artwork, I could feel Victor, my writing muse, nagging at me; throwing ideas at me, tempting me with new scenes, new ideas. The constant pull never leaves me.
I struggle every day to keep work time fair. I need to write. The need eats at me, nibbling with unceasing vigor. It’s a strong enough emotion to be uncomfortable.
Josh’s need to paint never leaves him. His paintings hang on our walls; they are strewn around the living room in various stages of completion. His flowers light up my walls like an unending reminder of summer blooms.
His newer works, a mix of abstract and impressionism, exude power. They draw my eyes and follow me wherever I move; a silent reminder that an art muse is in the room.
In order to get my writing time, I get up at 5:30 in the morning. Josh doesn’t usually get up until 9am which gives me a reliable three and a half hours a day that belong to me. If I’m good, and use the time for writing, Victor can usually be controlled. He cooperates with the rest of my day.
In the afternoon, Josh gets his time. In all, on a good week, he can get about fifteen hours of painting time. But life seldom goes as planned. Life interrupts. And when that happens, Josh and I scramble to keep up with our muses.
When deadlines loom, either a writing deadline, or an art show, we resort to the kitchen timer. I set it for the full hour and we trade off; one hour for him, one hour for me. Sometimes, that’s the only way I can keep it fair.
It’s not comfortable serving two muses. It’s like having an unbearable itch that you can never scratch. But it’s also exciting, energizing, and wonderful. When I see a new painting come from the brush of my son, I feel as much pride as I do when I have a new book go live.
I don’t argue with the muse. And I certainly don’t go up against two of them. I just hang on for the ride. Visit my website at http://www.clroth.com/