Second guessing yourself

When I do my writing, knocking off my usual word count, sometimes there is a strong temptation to go back and read what I’ve written. This is nearly always a bad idea, in fact my preference would be that the entire novel gets drafted before I go back and look. But I haven’t been able to resist a few read-throughs.

The general result is mixed, not so much about the content, as I have an agreement with myself regarding not worrying about that and simply plowing forward without critique. The question is whether there is any value in it. Do I get an insight into a character’s actions? Do I see a plot thread unfolding that I hadn’t considered? Etc. Etc. This answer is emphatically no. The only value is a little ego gratification that I have gotten this far and that fades very quickly when I think about how much further I have to go. Both are distractingly useless in the context of process. Ego stuff is rarely ever useful.

That’s not just my meditation voice as I certainly have not done it enough to know anything about that. But I do have experience. If someone praised a performance during the band days or thanked me for something they got out of one of my books, I never knew what to do with that information. When you do these things (writing, playing, painting, etc.), in my humble observation, you are not thinking about previous things.

In another context, the only thing I miss about playing in bands is performing. The only thing I miss about producing in the studio is working with the musicians and songwriters and the process. And writing fiction, once it takes ahold, is just as compelling to do. They are real time processes and when you step away from that you lose the thread of it. And maybe worsen things by starting to think egotistically about what you are making.

I think this is why writers and other artists seldom revisit old work. Musicians are forced to because they perform it but the great ones disrespectfully dissect their own masterpieces all the time- as any Dylan concert-goer knows. And this often outrages or disappoints so-called fans who want a moment, voice or style frozen into time. For an artist this is death.

And this is why those who recreate the works of others (like cover bands or artists who constantly paint the same quaint scenes) are not artists. They are something else, entertainers perhaps, but not artists. The one exception to this that I can think of right now are actors and directors who recreate roles in theater. But they are interpreting and interpretation is the primary talent of theater.

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