Another look at this one…
After re-reading my first entry on this subject, I felt as though it were missing something. So, here I am to try to fill in the missing bit(s).
When I think of the artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers whose work means something to me, I realize that what I am connecting with something in the experiences, emotions, and/or wisdom that they share through that work. I recall similar experiences, feel those emotions, recognize fundamental truths, and/or gain new insights into things I used to view differently, or had not previously understood fully. I see parallels with my own life, and see myself in these works. Sometimes, this helps me identify things I want to change; other times, it is enough for me to know that someone else out there has gone through the same things I am experiencing.
In short, I find meaning in those works. Not simply pretty pictures, an entertaining story, or interesting sounds, but meaning.
That is what I want to achieve with the things I create. It is not enough to simply create, however—the work must be shared. In isolation, nobody else will be able to experience the work, let alone find any meaning in it.
To give a concrete example…
In February of this year, I began collecting my poems into one place, with the idea of publishing some of them in a book. Selecting the ones I wanted to publish took me about two months. Initially, I just picked the ones I liked the best; I made pass after pass through the stack of poems, putting some of them in a ‘maybe’ pile, sometimes taking others back.
Then I saw a theme beginning to emerge. In many of the poems (going as far back as 1987), I had written about failed or failing relationships, and the emotions I experienced during those times. I chose to focus on this theme, even though it meant I had to set aside some poems I really liked because they no longer fit. The resulting collection would become Separation Anxiety.
But, I still had the question of whether or not to publish.
In 2013, I got divorced. Even though it was an amicable divorce, and about as uncomplicated as you can get, it was still a difficult time. I was fortunate to find a non-religious support group, but mostly found that there isn’t really a lot of support out there. Most people don’t feel comfortable talking about divorce, so it can be a very isolating experience. It is all too easy to feel as though nobody else understands what you’re going through, how you feel, or what you may need—making it difficult to reach out to others.
Remembering this on the anniversary of my divorce was what finally gave me my answer, what swayed me to finish the book and publish. In addition to the usual considerations involved in putting something out into the marketplace, I now had the more noble goal of giving people who have been in my situation something to show that, yes, you’re not alone, somebody else knows how you feel—while at the same time acknowledging those things for myself.
Whether I blog, post photos to Flickr, release a piece of music, or whatever, this search for meaning is ultimately what determines whether or not I publish something. Of course, since I can’t read minds, I have to go by whether or not something has meaning for me. Much like the old college advice that asking questions is important because at least six other people probably have the same question you do, I assume that if something has meaning for me, there is likely to be someone else out there for whom it may have meaning as well. Even if it isn’t especially unique or profound, I think that is a connection worth attempting.
(12 December 2014)