A really good bit here from Steve:
Few of us will be spoken of in centuries, let alone years, let alone ever. We’re unlikely to be Kameron Hurley or Terry Pratchett or any of the other greats. We’re temporary things, but in the end we’ll be sand – and even the greats will probably stick around a bit longer before they’re footnotes and records. It’s worth it.
Some time back, I realized I'd stopped reading books about writing and writers, in big part because I felt I'd exhausted the well of available good ones. (I guess I'll have to look back and see what's come and gone since, but I'm making a different point.)
Instead, I was reading books about other art forms: painting, photography, sculpture, critiques of the visual arts generally, discussions of performing arts (drama, music, happenings, etc.). I did this not just because I found the kinds of advice and insight I gleaned from books on writing and writers to be increasingly redundant, but because outside that circle I was seeing different kinds of advice, different ways of thinking about the whole business of doing something for both one's self and the sake of an audience or a patron.
One key takeaway from all that — a lot of this started with John Cage, as you can imagine — was the idea that art is as much a process as it is an artifact. It's done not just to leave you with this thing you read and then put on your shelf, or hang on your wall, or pay to see projected or enacted in a theater. It's there to give you the experience of those things, and it's also there for the sake of the artist to have the experience of giving others those things.
Being a writer is about the experience of sitting in a chair, day after day, figuring out the next line and the next line and the next. It's about trying to see where you can find the spot between what's in your mind and what can be frozen into words. It's about seeing how people react to that — good, bad, indifferent. It's about seeing what can be taken from that whole process and rolled forward into the next iteration. It's about the fact that 99% of the real business of writing is invisible and does not lend itself to reification, but is about the experience, and the experience exists within us and between us.
In short, the goal isn't artistic or personal immortality. If it happens, it happens. It's a nice bonus. It's not the point, because a good many of the people we now consider immortals in that vein neither tried nor asked for it. They were just trying to do the best job they could under the circumstances. People who topped the best-seller lists fifty years ago can't even be found in libraries today. There seems little point in trying to appease such a false god. The work should be about the making of the work.
Something else came to mind. Jury's still out for me on whether or not being an avid reader makes you a more empathic person. I'm tempted to make an argument that becoming a writer has a better chance of doing the same, although I know full well it's not so much the art or the experience of creating the art that can change a person, but the way all of that brings us closer to other human beings and requires us to acknowledge something sacred about them. This does not happen automatically; there are many ways in which the process can actually interfere with it instead of augment it. But it strikes me as still being one of the most powerful ways to do it.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind