My Muse is stomping across the living room, eyes red with fury, every snake stretching out from under her dark hair, hissing and snapping. I stay far away from her. I just got off the phone with the lawyer I was referred to by California Lawyers for the Arts, a non-profit organization that helps artists with legal issues, and she doesn't like what they told me.
"Insufferable! Intolerable! This is an insult to my work! Our work! Laura's work! How does anyone write a book or paint a picture, or do anything artistic with lawyers breathing down their back?"
"He was very helpful and friendly."
She waves her hand at me. "Not him. I'm sure he was fine. I'm talking about the lawyers who could come after us a few years from now for publishing a book that might make someone, someday, upset. Scandalous! How can you work under this shadow of fear?"
"The restrictions on what you can and cannot say. Changing names... intolerable! I mean there's a reason we kept the real names..."
"Yes. But now there's a very good reason to change them."
My muse crosses her arms and glares at me so intently I feel my feet turn hard and cold. "Why are you so eager to go along with it?"
I look away quickly. My feet tingle as if waking from sleep."I'm protecting the work. I'm not going along with anything." I cautiously walk toward her while keeping an eye on the snakes. "When a story is written down, it becomes tangible and isn't pure inspiration anymore. If you decide to share that story with the rest of the world, that means they get to read it and once that happens, the work is transformed into a living thing. It becomes a part of the reader. That's why it's important to protect the story from harm. Not limit the words or deny its truth, but strengthen the story's impact by giving it a foundation based on the physical world. The physical world is governed by laws, finances, budgets, taxes, and marketing."
"Disgusting! I can't believe I'm hearing this from you. I thought you were an artist!"
"Then act like one!"
I stand my ground and meet her gaze. "I am."
She blinks. The red light in her eyes simmers and turns gold.
"I am acting like an artist who believes in this work so much that I am willing to do whatever I have to do to get it out into the world where people can read it. There are too many artists who ignore the rules that govern the art world so their work is never seen..."
"Yes. Many are. And they take the risk that their work will cause pain. But if they are smart, they do it with eyes wide open. They don't hide behind the idea that since they are artists they don't have to know the consequences of their actions. They can stand beside their work and say proudly they understand the work may be controversial but they consciously chose to show it anyway. I respect those people enormously." I am standing beside my muse now, within striking distance of her snakes. "We are publishing this book and we will deal with whatever may happen in the future. But we are publishing it with eyes wide open and we are protecting ourselves not by changing the message, but by changing a name. That's all."
I wait. She is silent. The snakes look at me. Then slowly, she nods. "I see. Alright. I'll trust you on this." I take a deep breath. I won't be bitten, at least not this time. I rest my hand on her arm and my muse turns to me, her eyes back to green. Then she smiles a slow smile that makes me nervous. "But if I think for a moment you're giving in to lawyers out of fear, I will leave you immediately and you will never write another word again. Clear?"
"Good." She grins and pats my hand. "I'm off to get my hair done now. You'd better get to work on that manuscript. " She disappears with a wave.
I wonder where muses get their hair done?