In Service to My Masters by David Benton
Some days (weeks, months) managing it can seem almost impossible. Once you reach a certain age maintaining all of your responsibilities becomes a daunting task. This is true for everyone I know. Juggling home ownership, kids, pets, career, bills, and relationships can be a real drag. Even tackling only some of the aforementioned items can feel like a daily quest to the summit of Mt. Everest. But for those people who were blessed (cursed) with a creative bent, the day to day drudgery becomes compounded by the sting of the Musesí whip.
Unfortunately Iím one of those people.
Like most, I struggle endlessly with very little monetary reimbursement or notoriety for my efforts. Yet somehow in the spaces between the day job, keeping track of my kids, making sure my pets donít feel neglected, mowing the lawn -- and even occasionally eating and sleeping -- my hands always find a computer keypad or a fretboard to rest upon. Music and writing are my task masters (sometimes I even get a chance to blow the dust off of my air brush!), and they punish me with mental anguish when I donít heed their call.
I had thought that writing horror fiction and playing hard rock would be a perfect marriage. After all, they go so well together. But I find that music and writing are very different art forms, each requiring a different set of skills and switching gears can be difficult. Music (in performance) is an art of moments, each beat sweeping away the last. One momentís triumph or tragedy is instantly replaced by the next set of notes. Writing, on the other hand, requires more careful consideration. Words have to be crafted in such a way that conveys a vision from writer to reader. Both, when done exceptionally well, can carry a real emotional impact. And the effort to do both well eats a lot of time. Itís time that I really donít have to spare, but somehow I fit it in by shifting everything to accommodate it.
I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person Ė and that being the case Ė I oftentimes find myself wishing the demons were less demanding. If only I could be happy just going to work and coming home to relax in front of my TV! Then I could find a career and worry more about my pay stub and less about whether or not I could get a month off to go on tour. Then I could get an even bigger TV! My neighbors wouldnít complain about my lawn because I was at rehearsals or working off a writing deadline and didnít have a chance to cut the grass. I could be at my daughterís recital instead of playing a show halfway across the state (or world). But of course, then I wouldnít be me.
You might wonder why Iím complaining. After all it was my choice, right? The answer to that is: NO. To steal a line from Charles Bukowski: You donít choose writing, writing chooses you. And the same can be said for music, or art, or dance, or theater. You donít choose, you are chosen. Much like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind building a replica of the Devilís Tower out of a pile of mashed potatoes, I am compelled, obsessed, and in need of an intervention. In fact I stopped playing music for four years. I sold all of my gear. I thought I was done. But the hooks were already set too deep. I came back to it. It was waiting for me (waiting for me to write the opus that the aliens are feeding into my brain).
I find that even moderate success comes with a staggering price tag. And that the cost must be paid not only by me, but also by everyone close to me, whether by choice or circumstance (sincerest apologies to my friends and family who have to put up with my madness).
You see, being an artist (writer, musician) isnít something that I do; itís something that I am. Being creative is more akin to being tall, or nice, or talkative than it is with having made a career choice. I can decide if I want to be a bricklayer or cheesemaker, a doctor or lawyer. But, much like being Indian, or Egyptian, or French, creative is something that you are or you arenít Ė there is no choice.
Iím not driving the bus, you see. Iím being driven. You gotta let that boy boogie, Ďcause itís in him and itís gotta come out!
If I could choose, I would choose a life that was moreÖsimple.
And then come those black-hearted Muses with their whip, putting me to taskÖ
David Benton is currently the touring bass player for the heavy metal novelty band Beatallica, as well as playing in the Milwaukee area with the hard rock trio CHIEF. His horror fiction collaborations with W.D. Gagliani are collected in the Mysteries & Mayhem ebook and in the mid-grade novel I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter. More work in both fields is always on the horizon.