The subject of this post started in a morning e-conversation between Glorious and me. The loss of artistic soul. Commerce-creativity vs. true artistic life. Surrender. Loss.

Did we lose our artist selves? Or did we just set ourselves aside?

The world of Paycheck…. For those of us raised to a certain earn-your-way-in-life mentality, the idea of a paycheck is baked-in. Our worth is found there, in someone else’s hire, in earning our keep; in showing up and doing the time clock thing. But sacrifices are required.

Our creative time is one of the things we trade away. One must perform for our pay. One must show up. One must prove herself worthy of the trust the employer has invested in us. We have spent our professional lifetimes building a certain skill level and we are just conscientious enough to give back value for money.

Is it what we love? No. Hell, far from it. The workaday world is not nearly the one in which we would choose to spend our days. I can tell you from recent experience that being consumed by plot and character and turn of phrase from morning to night, with no other claim upon one’s time, is about the most perfect existence I can conjure. One travels through the hours and one’s feet never touch ground.

Working for a living, something else again. One has only so much energy in the course of 24 hours. My days of writing advertising, going home for a two-hour nap then taking up my own writing until two ayem…they’re past. I will/can/must write after work, but the time allotment is smaller.

Did we—do we—lose our creative selves to the demands of commerce? I choose to say no.

A job isn’t necessarily surrender, folks…it’s cash. It’s cat food and trips to WholeFoods and bottles of wine and a tolerable apartment…the staging ground and home base for our creative selves. Sometimes–often, even–the tasks and the energy of others are actually delightful.

I did have an extended period when I put the Writer Me away…a combination of rejection-defeat at a discouraging publishing market, the pressures of work, and the demands of a full-time relationship. I shelved that important, necessary side of myself for more years than I care to think about.

Today, I have found my writer-self again. I live it with a whole heart. And I can’t imagine living any other way.

The Creative Us…you, Glorious. Me. Whoever lives creativity in any slim, sincere form…the artists in us were not found dead in Workland, were not murdered in their sleep by the necessity of a paying job. We didn’t kill that best-in-ourselves, nor did we let it die. We didn’t go to its funeral. Sometimes, we set our creative selves aside. Sometimes we’ve got to.

Artists’ spirits get misplaced. Finding them again doesn’t mean that we conjured them out of nothing-dust. Those selves are the Sleeping Beauties in us, waiting for the kiss of circumstance. Like a line from a TV show Glorious and I quote often, “Just because the trees are bare doesn’t mean they’re dead.” If we are lucky and stubborn and determined and full-souled and willing, we can find our best selves again.

And now that we’ve found them (or did they find us?), what do we owe ourselves? We owe a willingness to live out that inner world, whatever the days throw in our paths. To let those selves sing to us. To shelter that tremulous faith that, yes, artists are what we are. Although commerce claims our days, we owe it to ourselves to know that the deeper, wandering, misplaced, stumbling artist is the Real Us.

We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge the child as our own. To live our love with our feet on financial ground. And our heads in the self-created clouds. To hang on to that elusive, unrewarded self. Until our fingers bleed, if that’s what it takes.