Today I sent my final edited short story manuscript, What Can’t Be Undone, to my editor for forwarding to my publisher, Thistledown Press. Before I did that, I went through my editor’s notes and comments over the last few weeks, re-writing and polishing and fretting about phrasing and meaning and searching for each story’s meaning, and the best way to say it. Sometimes it meant hunting for understanding nuance, looking for a single word, the perfect word missing from one particular phrase or scene. In one case, as I pondered, I had to re-examine my understanding – of grief, of mourning, of the pain of loss. It put me into a near-trance. Then I began to fret about the calibre of my work: maybe I should hold onto it indefinitely, re-write each and every phrase, re-examine the stories, some of which I began ten years ago. It had the makings of writer’s block: when is a piece good enough, ready for release? When does a writer need to let go so she can move on to other work?
Of course a piece reflects the writer’s development. Should a writer re-visit her earlier work and re-cast them in light of her improved skills and craft?
The truth of writing, and publishing, to some degree, is contained in what my editor said to me when I expressed my angst. He told me we grow as writers; that if we are lucky, we may outgrow what we wrote; that if we are lucky, we become better writers (and, I inferred, maybe better people). Doubts go with the trade. How good a writer I was, how good a writer I am, will become… That all stops mattering when I remember why I write. Tell the story the best you can today. Honour the story.