I sometimes wonder what great creators later thought about their works.
Once I had a dream where I met John Steinbeck in an American diner in the 50s. When I looked around the room I almost missed him because he was waiting tables. Starstruck, I approached him and told him how much his work meant to me, how much I admired it, and how great it was in general. He looked past me and shrugged, then someone from the kitchen called his name and he put out his cigarette and went to get the tray.
Larry McMurtry, author of 45+ novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, said the following about the book later:
I haven’t held Lonesome Dove in my hands or read it in years. I just don’t think much about my books, particularly not ones that go back 25 years.
In another interview with NPR, he said the following:
If you don’t want to be realistic about your work, fine. If you think that such and such a book is the War & Peace of our time, fine and dandy. Nobody’s going to stop you from thinking that. I don’t happen to think that way. I think I’ve written some pretty good books. But I don’t think I’ve written a great book.
It would be altogether unsurprising to me to learn that most of the art that has moved us the most came to mean almost nothing to those who made it in the end. For one thing, self doubt is too pervasive for it to not be a factor for some. For another, if what the creator makes is good enough, it will require every fiber of their energy and persistence to see it through to the end, and by the time they’re done with it they may wish they’d never even conceived of it. Lonesome Dove is 365,000+ words long.
While I wouldn’t dare compare myself to the two authors mentioned above, as a video creator for over 12 years now, I know keenly the feeling of always being compelled to create and always looking back on what I’ve made with indifference. It’s strange.