Always A Different River

The way of the artist is to process their experience through their art. This presumes that they have practiced the craft that forms the substrate of their art to the degree where they are able to express themselves through the filter of their emotions. I have mastered guitar to the extent that I can play what I intend to play.

I have reached a similar level of mastery when it comes to writing prose. I would hesitate to claim the label artist in either domain. I can express a thought or a tune but controlling the emotional color of the product is something that I’m still struggling with. At this point I am pleased to be able to capture simple truth in either medium.

The way to mastery is effort though. You must make the attempt and refine your efforts with each one. Every piece has lessons to teach. You must learn them and then move on to the next. Recognizing when a piece is as finished as it is going to be is part of the lesson.

Sometimes you revisit something you worked on previously. The result is another piece entirely. It may share structural and thematic content but like the river that is different each time you step into it, each rendering of an idea has its own soul. Each is a separate piece.

After all, like the river, the artist is constantly changing and the filter that is applied to the content is different each time. This realization gives a different spin on the process of creating a new draft of a work. The earlier work was complete, if only by definition. The new work is intended to improve on the predecessor. But in fact, it only portrays the subject in light of the more mature experience of the artist.

It is easier for me with music. Each performance is its own rendition. There is no question of any one version being definitive. Perhaps I should try to adopt that attitude toward writing prose. In some ways theater is more like music than prose is. Each performance is free to be interpreted slightly differently, even if the text is read exactly as written.

Perhaps the true prose artist can achieve the same effect in as much as their text makes a slightly different impression each time it is read. This is achieved by the combination of the filter of the reader’s experience as well as that of the author’s. And since the reader is a different person each time they read the work, the experience will be unique each time.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.