… is the boss, for many artists. It can lord over their friends and other commitments, including ones to goodness.
One day, my first year as a graduate student at Stanford, I was having lunch in the student union with a faculty member in the Creative Writing program. He was a merrily caustic sort. He asked me what I thought of California. I told him that I found that, here, people smile easily but they rarely laugh. He told me that was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. And, with that, he stood up, threw his napkin down, just like in the movies, and took off, leaving most of his lunch uneaten. I was puzzled. Normally that “smiling but not laughing” line made a nifty impression.
Six or seven months later I opened a famous monthly periodical and found a story written by this man. I had a few beers in me at the time, so on a lark I read it. The story’s last line: “In California people always smile, but they never laugh” (or something close). I was irritated.
And was for a very long time.
Now I understand. Why he ran to his typewriter. He was serving his master.
Which had found me unworthy, of a line I created.