It’s funny how variable one’s feelings about life can be. Obviously, I’m talking about my life and how I feel, the only experience in the world I can have, but in the interest of seeking, if not universality, at least confirmation from one other person, I asked David how he felt.
“Can you put the question more precisely?” he asked back.
Well, I told him, I’m thinking about whether or not one’s life feels meaningful and satisfying or just plain foolish and a waste of time, and for me a lot of that (this winter, anyway) has to do with how my writing is going.
When I have a day or two of the writing not going well, that is, when I’m not happy with my words, no matter how many I’ve churned out, my whole existence seems pointless. I ask myself what meaning there can possibly be in living this way, occupying a private dream world, peopled with fictional characters, day after day. Why am I struggling so hard to describe appearance and clarify the emotions of people who are not even real? Who cares? No one! If I were to give up this entire project, the world would never miss it, so why go on?
Then the next morning it goes well. A complex character emerges into the light, the scene around him illuminated, as well, and I’m pretty sure other people, potential readers, would be able to see it all just as clearly as if they were watching live actors on a theatre stage -- or their own neighbors at home and on the street. Now I feel on top of my personal little world! No one else has read the words yet, no one else knows the character, but I know him, and I care about him, and there he is! If no one else cares, I still do!
And that’s the thing, I told David. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. When it comes to the rest of the world, I am not cast down by rejection or puffed up by praise. I don’t really give a rip what anyone else thinks: it’s only how I judge it that determines my satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
“That’s pretty egoistic, isn’t it?” I remarked as I was laying this out. Not apologizing, you understand, just saying. I mean, it isn’t that I don’t see my feelings for what they are.
“It’s pretty much the way I feel about painting,” David answered.
We talked about that some more. If a person is going to be swayed by others’ opinions, David says, which others will determine the value of the work? People will not agree, and the artist will always be changing course, trying to please everyone.
Yes. And besides, I chimed in, what standards are others applying? Do they have standards at all, and if they do, are their standards mine?
Again, the double-edged sword, the two-sided coin. Laboring in obscurity, without obvious recognition or reward, creativity can have the satisfaction of being true to itself, and that’s the bright side of the coin.
Of course, when I’m around horses I’m not thinking about any of this stuff and am simply happy to be alive!