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Guest Post: Sometimes The Muse Can Be A Cruel Mistress

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(Today we have a guest post by by Barry Howard. He is an artist that lives in a small trailer he pulls with his bicycle! I have tremendously enjoyed his blog and encourage all of you to check it out.  A recent post really moved me and I want to share it with all of you. As you read it you may think “I’m not an artist, this doesn’t apply to me.” But I believe it does. I believe your whole life is a work of art that you were placed her to create and the only sin you can possibly commit is to fail to create it. If you aren’t an “artist,” simply think of whatever you have a passion for in life.)

Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Yesterday I was working on a new painting station that attaches to the front of the caravan. I had some paintings stacked inside and was just rummaging around when a woman approached suddenly and asked if I would resolve an argument she was having with her husband. I haven’t usually been known for my marriage counseling skills but still, I wanted to be helpful…like when you ask someone for directions and they don’t really know but will try anyway…”Well, I think you go down this way and take the fourth or fifth street and go left, or maybe right, yeh, I think go right and then it’s maybe a mile or so, I think, no, wait, don’t do that, go down here about six blocks and take a right where the flashing yellow light use to be, then…”


You know, they just want to be helpful…so I said, “sure, be glad to…” “Do you think,” she asked, “that there are some people who get bitten by a Muse?” I thought about that and wasn’t sure what she meant. Did she really want to know if I believed there was some kind of little fairy-person who could bite you, vampire like, and then you would forever be driven by an insatiable lust for art and creative expression? “What do you mean by that?” I asked. “I mean, do you think that some people just have to make art or sing or dance in order to be happy in life?” she explained. “Oh,” I replied, “sure, in my own case, definitely. I don’t feel I really ever had any other choice but to do what I’m doing….” The husband had been hanging back, standing off a ways, clearly not wanting any of this conversation or at all interested in my take on it. It turns out that the question concerned their 18 year old daughter who was a singer. Mom, obviously, was siding with the daughter’s desire to pursue singing as a career, whereas Dad thought this was foolish and irresponsible.


“I remember very clearly standing next to my friend on the first day of kindergarten and saying, as they passed out the Crayons and paper, “This is what I love to do!” I already knew then what my passion was. I’ve never had any doubt that pursuing an art career was what I would do…often to my own disadvantage…” “See?” the woman said to her husband…”often to his own disadvantage…”she repeated, nodding her head up and down. Now the husband edged closer, feeling emboldened to make his argument. “I don’t see why you can’t have both.” he said. I knew what he meant by this….I’ve heard this argument many times. When people say this they usually mean that they don’t see why a person can’t just go for a “safe” career path with some security, and do their art, or singing in this case, in their spare time. Artist-Working-use “Because,” I replied to the dad, “If you have a very strong passion for something, it’s what you want to devote most of your time and energy to. If you do it in your spare time, it’s a hobby, not a career. And to get very good at anything takes a great deal of time and devotion. And besides, when you choose something else to make your living at, it’s giving up before you have really tried. I have always been ruled,” I went on, “by the terrifying fear of getting to the other end of my life and saying to myself, “I wish I had gone for it….really pursued my dreams instead of hanging back in fear of failure.” That, to me, is the worst thing I can imagine, because by then it’s too late. You’ve spent your life doing something you don’t really love, maybe don’t even care very much about. You’ve spent your life putting your energy into making someone else’s dream come true. Your employer’s. Artist-Riding Now, if you love your job, really love what you do, then that’s great, you get the best of both worlds. Some people don’t have a built in passion for one thing that obliterates everything else, and those people are lucky in a way. There have been many times when, exhausted by the effort it can take to keep trying to figure out how to make it work, I’ve wished I was the sort of person who could just work in a little hardware store or something and be happy with that. Yunno, just enjoy my coworkers, go home, go bowling on the weekends or whatever and be content. That is a gift, but it’s not a gift I have. I seem to have been born with this monkey on my back…this non-negotiable drive to create as much art as well as I can before I leave this life. It is certainly not an easy path, and it’s cost me much….security, a stable relationship, and certain freedoms that come with choosing a more predictable path. It’s never been straightforward and clear, I am always having to figure out how to proceed and hope it all works. Artist-Open And here’s the thing,” I went on, “maybe your daughter will succeed wildly and maybe she will fail, but if she tries and fails, and then chooses to change course and do something else it will be because she went for it and came to her own decision…but if you advise her to take a path she really isn’t passionate about in order to be safe, she may one day look back and regret having made that choice…she will always wonder what would have happened if she went for it…and she may resent you for steering her away from what was most important to her. But maybe she won’t fail… I always think of what John Lennon’s aunt said to him when he was a kid. She said, “The guitar is fine, John, but you’ll never make a living at it.” Artist-inside-2 The Dad seemed to really listen to what I said, and I don’t know what he felt about it…I don’t know what happened after that…they drifted off and I went back to my work. There are so many different paths and ways to go about life and it’s all a trade off. Maybe nothing is perfect. But I know that much of the incredible and wonderful art, and music and literature and science out there would never exist if the people that brought those creations into being had chosen a more conservative path. Artist-painting-2 The very nature of art and science is exploring the edges of the boundaries of what’s known or familiar…of putting oneself out on the edge…and it’s not necessarily a safe place out there. It’s not necessarily a comfortable life all the time. But I think the ones who put themselves out there beyond the boundaries add the bold accents to the fabric of our lives. Some people see artists as self indulgent and irresponsible, but those of us who occupy the fringes to do what we do, sacrifice a lot….and really, I don’t think we have any real choice to do otherwise. Artist-Camping


  1. openspaceman

    Love the redesign. I can see I’ll be spending alot more time exploring your site(s) now that everything is so organized.
    The world needs accountants, construction workers, farmers, etc.
    but the world also needs artists and musicians. It makes me feel good knowing that you’re out there painting and making the world a better place to be.
    I’ve always loved music and for the first thirty years of my life I would pass by music stores and never go in because I wasn’t a musician/artist… I thought I wasn’t allowed in because I couldn’t play. Then one day I got the courage to grab a cheap guitar off the wall, I paid for it and quickly left the store.
    Fifteen years later or last Tuesday to be exact I was playing in a rehab center at a hospital for about forty people. I’ve played there a few times and been invited back. A few times after a show a few people ( mostly older folks )would come up and say they wished they would have learned to play.
    *There’s plenty of work to be done. But I’m glad I also learned to play.
    _Thanks for the post.

    • Bob

      Thanks openspaceman! The primary goal was to bring all the sites into one common place so that they are interconnected. There is a lot of information availavable between them all but it is hard to get to all of it. This should help.
      It’s strange how so many of us swear that we aren’t artistic, but given the time, opportunity and a little encouragement, we discover it is hidden in there somewhere! I’m glad you found yours!!

  2. Myddy

    I love the new look, also this post!! The pictures of that little wagon are amazing. I think the wagon is so cute!
    It is best to follow your heart in all decisions, always! I have been so happy since I began following mine!

    • Bob

      Myddy, it is amazing he can live in that small a space! And towing it with the bike ust be a real chore as well. But like you said, you have to follow your heart to live life to it’s fullest!

  3. Joe S

    Barry – I love your painting station and the fact that it’s bike powered! Keep doing your thing brother. Most people just plod through life without any passion, you are one of the lucky ones.
    Bob – The new layout is fresh and more up to date. Well done. I hope your knee is doing better and you’re resting up from that epic adventure.

    • Bob

      Thanks Joe! I’ve done both, been a plodder and then switched to follow my heart. For me, following my heart was much better!!!

  4. LaVonne

    Love the new site and the reorganization, Bob.
    And Barry, you are an inspiration, thank you — and your paintings are gorgeous!

    • Bob

      Thanks LaVonne! You are very right, he is an inspiriation!

  5. ILDan

    Love the new set-up.

    • Bob

      Thanks ILDan, all the credit goes to the new webmaster.

  6. CAE

    That is one sweet rig! I love bikes and once met a guy with a similar rig riding the coast of Costa Rica with it. Surfing as he went. Really cool!
    Time is all any of us actually have. And most of us don’t really know how much of it we’ve got. Spend it doing things that make you happy. It makes the world a better place if everyone is happy. Money is lousy trade-off for you life.

    • Bob

      Very wise words CAE!!

  7. Curtis

    Hey Bob your sites are looking wonderful, thank you for the update.
    Thank you Barry for following your dream and encouraging us to do the same.:)

    • Bob

      Thank you Curtis!

  8. Patrick

    Making sure backup all your data to local drive and DVD. If anything goes wrong, you still have backup.

    • Bob

      That’s good advice Patrick, thanks!

  9. Peggy

    Bob, the site looks fantastic! Looking forward to the forums becoming active.
    You’re an inspiration, Barry. I especially love your abstract painting, and your trailer is wonderful.
    Living the life of an artist isn’t always comfortable or easy. I’m surrounded by craftspeople and artists and unfortunately most of them live well below the poverty level. I don’t think that the people who make art are adequately rewarded for the most part. But there’s a compulsion there that keeps you walking the artist’s path, no matter how difficult it sometimes becomes. Creators are a special breed and what would the world be without them?
    I also think that many people fantasize about living the life of an artist because they think we’re just having a great old time, playing around all day. The artists I know are very dedicated and hard-working…the passion they have for their calling sees them through the hard times.
    Happy trails to you, Barry!

    • Bob

      You are so right Peggy! If we would all see our lives as a work of art to be crafted and treasured instead of something to endure, we would all be much happier.

  10. Bob

    Thanks Jim!

  11. Omar Storm

    Hi Bob,
    Great looking website!!! Thanks again for all the good information.

    • Bob

      Thanks Omar!

  12. Gennifer

    What a great post! Wise words for the couple and their daughter (and the rest of us). I know what you mean about sometimes wishing you could just work in a little store and be happy. But I’ve got that same monkey on my back – I’m not happy unless I’m creating something. Beautiful paintings and awesome trailer!

  13. openspaceman

    I had a nightmarish dream last night about being trapped in
    the”I’ve Got Lollipops” caravan from ChittyChittyBangBang…
    No doubt from seeing Barry’s awesome red creation and some
    miss-firing brain cells on my part.

  14. white trash

    I am late posting here, because I’ve been gravitating towards this blog post specifically…
    But when I lose my job & other securities (as a result of when my boss [who is my uncle] passes away from old age) I will need to find a way to make $ and have something to live in.
    I think that since I am a bicycle-addict, I might not have any other choice than to hang on to my bicycle.
    Im not sure about being able to afford maintenance on a car, or even being able to pay for fuel & oil…
    This particular blog post has highly inspired me to look into a way to have a shelter & be able to pull it w/ a bicycle…
    Oh also, I am a pencil-artist (trained in college [art-major]).
    It would be a dream to live like this man does.
    Thanks Bob… Your web sites are the best !!!

    • Bob

      white trash, I also am blown away by what an incredible home he has built out of human-power. I’m not athletic enough to pull it off myself, but the idea of always having a combination vehicle/home that requires virtually no money to operate is incredibly appealing to me. If you live in a van, you will never be homeless, but if you live in a bicycle/trailer you can live almost money-free.

      • white trash

        Bob… your statement just brought a tear to my eyes: …”If you live in a van, you will never be homeless, but if you live in a bicycle/trailer you can live almost money-free.
        ***Now I have something to look forward to in life down the road.
        I’m getting older & am having trouble finding work, much less dealing with coworkers. Honestly, I just don’t see how I want to be pushed around in the workplace, nor being kept under someone else’s thumb. -Sick of it, ‘eh!
        Thanks again… Donation coming your way in the next few days.

        • Bob

          white-trash, if you build a trailer, I’d love to have you take pictures and we’ll write it up here. I’m very curious how you could build it and make it light enough and large enough to live in.

  15. Calvin R

    I recently lost my bicycles in a family misadventure, but there will be more. Right now I’m in a situation where arthritis will take away my ability to ride unless I stop it by riding.
    I am still in a quandary about the future, which is really no news. I had not seriously considered the notion that someone else was already on the road with a bicycle rig. I will be studying this as well as the other alternatives. The idea of paying for nothing but food, or close to that, has a great appeal for me.

    • Bob

      Calvin, I’m facing that as well, my knees are getting worse and I’m not sure a bicycle is a viable option for me. The last thing I want to do is cause even more damage by riding a bike. That just wouldn’t be worth it to me.

  16. Rob

    I’m just now catching up with the blog, my blog catcher machine lost you !
    This was a good one, especially the quote “You’ve spent your life putting your energy into making someone else’s dream come true. Your employer’s.”
    So many people with so many different ideas, different paths and goals …
    I like the new site!

    • Bob

      Thanks Rob! The site is a long way from what I want it to be, but it is getting there.

  17. Crom Rehab

    Great post!

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