I was visiting with an editor at a well-known magazine in her midtown Manhattan skyscraper offices. I commented on the chairs in the waiting room, which were sort of like bar stools only pointy, tall, and sadistically uncomfortable. I said to her, “Wow, those chairs seem not only uncomfortable but uncomfortable on purpose.” To which she replied, “That’s our boss. He makes everything uncomfortable on purpose.”
The day jobs that artists must tolerate are not just time-eaters and energy-drainers but they are also theaters of the absurd where bosses have the power to pick out sadistic chairs for everyone to sit on—and do so. When you are battered by your day job in such ways, when what you are thinking about as you ride home to Queens on the subway is not your new painting but your revenge fantasies, how easy is it to get to your art?
How well do you leave your day job behind you at the end of the day? Are you still angry with your boss for something he said or did or have you left him at work? There is a famous Zen story that goes as follows. A master and an acolyte are walking home through the woods. They come to a stream. A beautiful young woman is on the bank, unwilling to cross because she doesn’t want to get her dress wet. The master offers to carry her across. She agrees. Later, as the master and the acolyte continue their walk home, the acolyte chides the master: “We aren’t supposed to carry women like that!” The master laughs and replies, “I left that woman on the bank a long time ago. You are still carrying her!”
In order to create art, we must leave at the studio door our grudges, our worried thoughts, our grievances, our revenge fantasies, and everything else that burdens our mind. If we continue to carry them, we may not make it to the studio at all. Are you spending more time brooding than painting? If your boss provides you with sadistic chairs and all manner of tyrannies, can you leave that behind when you leave work each day? Make sure to engage in that useful cognitive work: leave those sadistic chairs at the office and clear your mind for your art!
Eric Maisel’s latest book is Life Purpose Boot Camp: