I don’t know John Edgar Wideman’s work, but…

This passage from a recent Esquire Classics interview with him, via the Sunday Long Read email newsletter, is good, particularly Wideman’s thoughts on how completion of a creative exercise — in his case writing a book — affects you. One thing I’ve struggled with on a personal level throughout my digital work is how the multi-tracked, iteration-heavy nature of digital creation leaves you, at times, without clear breaking points, moments of celebration, cyclical energy, etc.

EC: Are you pleased with how [the book] turned out?

JW: Yes, I am. Of course you always think writing a book will change your life.

EC: You mean how well it is reviewed, how it sells?

JW: No, not in that sense. Not that it will get you something concrete but this sense that everything fails, this pessimisim of being human, being vulnerable. When you start out on a book, you’re hoping that when you finish you’ll be different. How different? What different? If you knew that you wouldn’t need to write the book. You can’t say. Just that you are going to be a different person. That is hope in its most amorphous, shimmery, vaporous sense, but I think it’s part of the artistic urge. To write something, to make a piece of music, you really think you are going to change the world.

You’re not a new person when you’ve finished a book. The world hasn’t changed. But it’s not bad that you were able to sit down and do it. And it’s not bad that it ends. Then you try to sit down and do it again if you get the urge, if you can stretch yourself and make the leap.

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