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The Living Room General One's relation to one's work
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One's relation to one's work
For those of you who are doing creative things now, I'm interested: how do you relate to your work, especially encountering (perhaps after an absence) the finished work? Do you recognize it as having come from you? Does it reveal things to you about yourself? Or is it more that something needed to be said and chose you as its medium, but doesn't reveal much about you in particular? Or some combination of the above?
Relation to finished work: an interesting question.  

In the best cases, I think my experience at the moment of having finished a project or a manuscript is often the feeling of having accessed something universal: a sort of “aha, now I see how things work!” and a deep, almost tactile pleasure in having managed to get this down. At such times I don’t feel that what I have just finished writing has much to do with me. The pride is more a craftsman’s.

In contrast if I come back to my work after some time has passed, the person I was when I wrote it comes much more clearly into focus. I feel almost as if she is in the room with me; I see her worries and opinions, perhaps now somewhat revised, haunting the pages.

What saves me from terrible discouragement at such times is the pleasant fact of having new projects which bring with them the promise of universality.  

Maggie
I went back recently and read some essays I'd written when I was younger, and about which I had very intense memories (of having struggled with and come up with certain insights, of getting particular turns of phrase down just right, even of other people's reactions). Of course they were nothing like what I expected. Much sharper, much more focused, but also much calmer. The surging tide which threw the final few sentences onto the shore was nowhere in evidence -- just a polite, articulate, very clever ending.

I sometimes wonder about this immense scaffolding of emotion and experience which gets built up to allow the construction of a small beautiful building. And how much has to lift off, to fall away. How strange and austere the building looks without it. Did the Greeks use scaffolding on their temples?
Solveig, I really appreciated your reply.

Perhaps the way people respond also depends on the motivation for the work: was it experienced as an expression of self, or as something that needed a voice and happened to choose you? How much ego was involved?
If a lot, then it's probably like looking at an old photograph: either you can't believe you found that fashionable or you congratulate yourself for looking much better than you remembered.
Otherwise, it's perhaps more like the difference between staging a play and watching it from the audience -- there is a certain surprise in seeing it from the other side, where what is noticed is not always what you imagined.

Finally, I would ask this in the context of other discussions of creating, for instance post and post.
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Latest Post: February 2, 2010 at 9:19 PM
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