Maybe I should have used six verys in that last sentence, like a six gun salute or some such.
I hit a point like this with my artwork (which is languishing at the moment) where I had a deep enough portfolio of current (as in created within the last year) work that I actually had choices about what to put up in the art shows I attend. It's more than a feel-good moment. It's a sign that I'm getting my act together as far as creative production.
Speaking of production, a long time ago I had a discussion with someone about the commercialization of one of my favorite musical groups. Had they sold their souls to become commercial successes? I thought not. I think they grew and improved from their early, if passionate, days. I still hear that passion in their music but without the raw and, I feel, unrefined quality. As far as lyrics and political messages I still see lots of compassion, philosophy and, yes, politics in their music but they're no longer whacking their listeners up side the head with a 2x4. When the message is clear its still artful, not screaming for attention.
Although I may worry occasionally about 'production' and whether I'm just cranking out words because I can (or because I want to get paid,) I only worry about that when I examine my overall volume or how many subs I have out. When I'm actually writing instead of handling the business part of writing, I'm fully engaged in the story. I care about the characters and what happens and what means what and pay attention to whether I'm connecting with the reader or not. When I stop caring, then I'll be in trouble. I think when a writer stops caring their stuff becomes less compelling and less publishable, and we see less and less of them in print until they fade away. Same with artists.
Part of caring is striving and stretching limits. If it's comfortable, it's not my best work. When I'm struggling with those words, or the paint, I know I'm trying to achieve something that may be beyond my skills and I really focus. That focus shows on the page or canvas, for better or worse. Maybe that's an element of my older work that has staying power--I tried to write something beyond my skill level and although I didn't quite make it, that struggle and passion ended up on the page and became memorable.
Well, it's back to the creation part of my day. Time to produce, and strive, and struggle, and reach for something that may be beyond me.