An Artist’s Temperament


I’ve already mentioned I love my job and as a result, I am sometimes a workaholic. It’s a touch more difficult to explain the artist’s temperament, but a situation this weekend allows for a decent explanation. When I want to work, I can’t get a book off my brain. And I don’t want to do anything else, be it playing video games, going out with friends, or just having a sit down meal with family. I literally want to do nothing else but write.

When we go to the campground at Mark Twain Lake, we are smack dab between two small towns. Perry is 8 miles south and Monroe City is 8 miles north. Perry is the smaller of the two. Thursday, despite the tailbone ache and annoyance it brought, I got to a good part in the book I’m writing. But packing forced me to abandon the scene unfinished.

Friday morning, I got up, we went shopping for a new camping chair for me and grabbed some other things we needed. Then we came back and I made my writer’s nest in our oversized shed, because direct sunlight runs the risk of overheating my laptop, makes the screen hard to see, and breaks me out in a rash.

I worked for 3 hours, got that scene done and headed to the next. Another good scene with magic spells and dragons, because you know dragons. Friday night, after everyone had climbed into their beds, I broke out the laptop, headed back out to the shed and began work again. I’d been at it maybe an hour when the wind picked up. Realizing a thunderstorm was on the way, I unplugged everything and shoved my laptop back in my bag. Wind gusts of 35 miles an hour buffeted the camper and we kept waiting for a thunderstorm warning or tornado warning to be issued. At 1:45, I headed to bed. No storm, no tornadoes, and I’d spent 2 hours waiting…..

Saturday morning I learn there was a minute amount of rain, nothing big, and the wind, was just gusty wind. I had packed up for nothing. J and his mom asked if I wanted to go with them to the all-town garage sale in Perry. I will mention now that I’m not a shopper. Not even when there are bargains to be had. It’s just not one of my favorite past times.

Now, I have a choice, I can go garage saling with J and his mom or I can move my shit back out to the shed and work for the two or three or four hours they’ll be gone. It’s supposed to be a nice day. I can put Kelly on her cable and Lola can lay around in our yard and I can work or I can go with J and his mom….

But here’s the truth of the matter. I’m not enjoying this weekend, not because of anything “wrong” with it. It has actually been a great weekend, but because this book is burning holes in my brain. I have to get the words out. If I had gone, I probably could have convinced J to buy me lunch and stuff, but getting these words out and down on paper is the only thing that will make me happy right now. And at the campground, with everyone gone, I have the opportunity. I’d rather take advantage of that than go with them.

I try to explain it, but it’s hard for a non-writer or non-artist to understand that when you feel it, it’s a strong and powerful pull. It’s a siren song that must be answered and nothing will appeal to me or make me happy until I have. When this happens, I get annoyed when I have to eat, go to the restroom, or go to bed. I get cranky when I’m interrupted or when I can’t work for some reason.

I often describe being a writer as a mental illness. I talk to myself, tell impressive and elaborate lies (in the form of a story), it makes me prone to mood swings, its exhausting and refreshing at the same time. It makes me manic and depressed, not manic as in cleaning my house at 2 am, but manic as in can’t sleep because the book won’t let my brain shut off. When it’s passed, it will be like a hurricane has ended. I will want to sleep for two or three days. I will feel listless and restless. I will feel empty, having poured my soul out onto the page and I will be unhappy. Yet, I will also stare at the completed manuscript in awe. That’s just how it is when I write.

I know I have the artist’s temperament and there’s little I can do about it. Except give in to it and write instead of going out and being with real people (the imaginary ones in my head at least do what I want them to). I’m sure it’s hard to live with me and I often feel sorry for J and my mom, for having to put up with me.

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