Every artist keeps a beast, a thing that feeds and destroys. Sometimes the beast keeps the artist and we all know, the beast keeps most of the talent. The beast is the teacher, the muse, the distraction, the foe.
The beast is not a good roommate or life-partner. The beast will make you walk, pockets stuffed with stones, down to the depths. The beast will make you roast yourself instead of dinner. The beast will pour drink after drink down your throat until your body stops like a watch.
This is the struggle: fight against dissatisfaction; fight to stay hungry. Dissatisfaction leads to the destruction of everything not on the page and the other leads to revision, of work, of life, for the better. The fight tears at the tendons— to not give in or give up, and yet count and live within the blessings that can be found.
So I look for the tiny things. The warm look from my beloved, the light igniting the iris as it spreads apart, taking me in. Why me?
What have I done, to be taken in, to be taken care of, to be taken at all? Every bit of happiness that comes at me is stored magpie-like in my mind, though sometimes I forget where I’ve stored it. The darkness in my heart comes growling up my spine, paces into my mind, looking for things to feed on and takes my happiness when I’m staring at something else.
The artist who survives has to survive with the beast, a tenant of the heart, but not of the head, kept at bay with cunning.
I look at the tiny things. Fingers laced through mine, his head resting on my breast at 3 a.m. A message from my sister, a letter from a friend. Sunshine glinting through the chandelier of raindrops clinging to bare branches on the tree outside. The joy of rolling words around in my head, bringing them out onto the page and sharing them with others.
Give up the ambition for more, and you’ll settle. Focus too much on the things out of reach and you’ll crack, fracture down through every stable thing in your heart.
At night, I get up, prowl into the next room, pace like my other in the cage where I put it and write. I let it out, run wild under the moon, as I have since childhood when I’d scribble my stories under a blanket with a flashlight, the sound of pencil scratching into paper.
At length, I quit writing, press my palms down on the table and tell myself to stop. I have a job to wake up for in the morning. I have a lover waiting in my bed.
The tiny things. I meditate on each of them. I beat the beast back upon my beloved’s breast. I lay my head down and close my eyes and empty my mind, to rest and fight this fight tomorrow.