When the work works —

by waxbanks

When it’s working, my experience of my own writing is similar to my experience of someone else’s. Eerily so, as I wonder how in the world I could’ve written this or something like it. Surprise, delight.

Immediately rereading your first draft is often a mistake, because you recognize its inner contours too readily. It all makes (too much) sense to you, you can fill in What That Person Meant without actually reading it on the page. And anyhow That Person is basically you-right-now. Not yet a stranger.

You have to forget working so that you can encounter the work on its own terms. Much of it will be terrible, but not all. And some of it’ll strike you much better than you were or are capable of, will alienate you because it reflects an alien consciousness, the form you took in an instant you wouldn’t now know how to recreate. That’s the very best feeling. In that case: Surprise. Delight.

When the work’s working, it will seem — it will be — impossible.