I'm taking a class right now called The Bible in English Poetry, and our textbook (which has some really dense literary theory) makes a point of discussing the hero's journey. In that discussion, it says said that the journey is both linear and labyrinthine. It's like literature itself: the work may have a clear beginning and end, but the work still goes on living all the while. (This is also why the work lives beyond its pages: when the book is over, it's still alive, after all.)
When I was in high school, I acted in lots of plays. I haven't since the summer before I came to Fordham, but I suppose there's still a part of me that's an actor, and maybe that part of me will come out at some point in the future. At any rate, during a play it's imperative (generally speaking) to forget that the actor and the character are separate. An actor might channel key personal experiences and characteristics in the portrayal, but the character is nothing if it doesn't have a life of its own. This is good: it is, in fact, what makes theatre a very lively art form.
When I write a poem (I hope), I lose myself, just as much as I might (inevitably) bring myself into the poem. A poem isn't a journal entry; there's a reason why the adventures of Odysseus are recounted in verse. Poetry (like acting) allows us to incorporate ourselves into our art and lose ourselves at the same time. Without wanting to sound too sappy, it's rather like what people call being in love.
Life, certainly, would be very much the poorer were it not for art, literature occupying a central place. Well, certainly, our generation must not let that light go out.