The Feeling

Aug 1, 2023

I’m working on a fable about a fish. I’ve probably rewritten it ten times by now. At first I felt frustrated by this endless cycle of iteration. But then I remembered: This is how it goes. This is the process.

The task is to keep iterating until that “feeling” is reflected back to me in the work. It’s that pestering creature in my head that made me start writing in the first place, the indescribable essence that I must strive to describe.

I know it when I see it, because it activates something in me. Sometimes, it’s just a single sentence. It flickers in my eye like a glimmer of sunlight peeking through the leaves.

I’ve seen enough of these glimmers now to know when I haven’t found it yet. That’s how I know I have to keep going, that the search is not over, and that there is still method to the endless meddling madness. (Or so I tell myself.)

There’s no way to be sure that one iteration will be better received than any of its predecessors. I cannot predict the outcome. I can only follow the feeling.

Sometimes the creative craft feels like wading into the water on a beach, searching for the perfect spot by feeling with my feet. I couldn’t tell even if I found it—the sensation in my toes underwater is a muddy signal. The only thing I know is when I’ve gone too far out into the deep, or when I’ve fled too far backward into the shallow sands. All I can do is keep swimming to stay in that sweet spot, toeing the line between surveying the unknown and getting lost.

I don’t always trust my instinct, but each act of sharing my work helps me grow a little more trust in my own judgement. Piece by piece, I grow in confidence.

Yet I know I’ll never feel fully content. I’ll never look at a piece and think, “Ah, this is perfect.” And that’s okay, because there is no such thing as perfect.

There is no “right” in creative work. There is only the work to get it right.

I chase and chase, until I cannot chase anymore. Then, it is ready. It is ready because it must be, because I force a deadline, because otherwise this would go on forever.

At some point, I must lift the pen and let it go. Life is short, and there are many more feelings to find.