to qualify as an artist

This is Not a Cat

What is so important about a cat that I need to make more time in my life to write about him?

I am not happy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. I’ve been complaining about studying for the SAT, extra hours at work, inconveniences that pop up, and the myriad errands I need to run. I want more time to write about my cat.

Yes, my cat.

Neruda wrote about a pair of ugly socks that someone knitted for him.

Van Gogh painted his mailman.

Magritte painted his pipe.

Mary Eliza Crane wrote a poem about peanut butter sandwiches.

Not every piece of art needs to be about Guernica. If I admit it, I don’t even know what happened that left Picasso with the compulsion to paint Guernica in the first place. I just know the title Guernica and the gory, thought-provoking art that Picasso produced. Do you know the history behind the work?

I tried to explain this at work. I did. I’m trying to fit my words around my need for more time to write. When I tried to talk to a coworker about Van Gogh and his mailman, his response was, “Are you comparing yourself to Van Gogh?”

Suddenly the conversation was no longer about my need to carve out space for my art, but my qualifications to make art.

That’s the problem, isn’t it?

I’ve always admitted that I don’t have a degree in writing, yet I’ve been writing since I was thirteen, publishing since 1995. Even though I intend to be funny, I take the work seriously. And here I am, still trying to justify carving out time for my art to a coworker. He’s never even read anything I wrote. So how can he judge?

The point isn’t that I am as qualified as Van Gogh or Neruda or even Mary Eliza Crane, but the point is that I feel compelled to write. That’s the issue at hand. But then, I want to tell this guy, nearly a week after the conversation is over, that even Van Gogh wasn’t qualified to be Van Gogh when he began his four year pilgrimage of painting. He sold one painting, one, and he painted over 900 others in the last four years of his life. From the outside, it looked like a compulsion to produce art, a need.

But that guy who questioned me isn’t here now. When he asked me that question, he had no interest in listening to what I needed. His is a misunderstanding of my art, at best, and a desire to tear at the fabric of creativity, at worst.

So, again.

I am not happy.

I have become that forward-leaning person who takes up whatever job people want to throw in her direction because they need someone, her, to do it.

Today, I am going to have a conversation with my boss about my time. I need to tell him that I don’t want more hours added to my schedule. I have to tell him that I can’t give any more unpaid time to his SAT project. I will no longer prepare at home for a test I don’t need to take. I did what he asked me to do: I gave his SAT tutors an opportunity to teach the SAT; I raised my scores significantly so that he can use them to market to potential clients. I could, with my new and improved scores, get accepted into a good university if I wanted that. I did my part for his cause. I need to tell him one more time that I do not want the job of teaching the SAT. So,if I don’t qualify, I don’t really care, except for the embarrassment of having failed to qualify.

I need to make more space in my life to write, to edit, to polish my books, and get them ready to publish. I need to do this. I need to finish what I started.

I need to write about my cat.

Thank you for listening, jules