"Don't you find it hard?"
The question startled me out of a daydream I'd been having. It was my usual waking fantasy: a melange of color and warmth; something about clouds and sunlight. I sighed. "Find what hard?"
"Art," she said. "Or rather, being an artist. To make this all this stuff," she gestured around the studio with a lithe porcelain limb, "you need to understand it, right?" I stared at her with as blank a look as I could muster. She rolled her eyes and pressed her point. "You need to have this deep appreciation of where this stuff came from. Take that painting, for example." She pointed at a still life I'd sketched one rainy afternoon in November, a bowl of dead cellphones in front of a grey window. "You had to really see those things, and then let your artistic muscles give it form on the canvas, no? You didn't channel a spirit who remote-controlled the brush across the canvas. You looked at that scene and gave it a second life with your paintbrush."
"Okay," I agreed.
"So it was hard, right? It was work."
"Yes," I agreed.
"And you get tired, in the way that a construction worker who's got to hoist materials into place all day must get tired. Maybe not a bone-weary exhaustion, but certainly the act of creation must wear you down."
"What are you getting at?" I asked. I felt a deeper irritation start to rise. I hated talking about the artistic process, and she knew that. I could understand her curiosity; almost everyone who'd never explored their own arty abilities wondered where they came from. The answer was always the same, that it was hard work and uncompromising diligence. No one believed that, though. That's what made it so irritating to discuss.
"Nothing," she said. Her eyes hardened into a half-glare that vanished with a shake of her head. "Let's go get brunch."