It’s constant, necessary, and can’t be stopped. Unfortunately. Because who wants to come to the realization that in this life we might never reach our full potential? It’s a strange comfort to know as long as we keep learning and as long as we keep trying, that we’ll keep getting better. But it can also be discouraging when you want everything you create to be your best work. But here’s what I’ve learned about my “best.” It’s just an illusion.
I’ve mentioned before that I recently went through a huge growth spurt as a writer. Initially it was exciting and encouraging and I was relieved that I was finally seeing results from the rigorous writing schedule I’ve dedicated myself to for the past year. But then I started to look back on things I’d written in the past when I was younger and a completely different writer and it was hard not to feel like starting over.
My first thought was, I wonder what this story could have been if I’d waited? But after agonizing over the what if’s and making myself feel horrible for the simple fact that I’ve grown, I realized that those thoughts were poison.
Because yes, I’ve gotten so much better as a writer and there is the possibility that if I’d put off those projects until now that they’d be stronger. But that’s not the point. Obtaining perfection is not the point of writing, nor is it the point of life. The point of both is to grow. And I’ve done that. And that’s all that matters.
As an indie author who’s chosen the self-publishing route for my first two books, I’m constantly faced with this dilemma. How long do I hold onto a manuscript? Without a team of agents and editors and publishers behind me, how will I ever know when it’s really ready? And since I’m constantly evolving, will it truly ever be?
I have to say that maybe the answer’s no. You can go through fifty drafts of something and guess what? It’ll probably get better every time. Because you’re getting better. But what does that mean for what we choose to share with the world? Does it mean we should never share anything? That’s the only choice if you’re aiming for perfection. But if you just want to be an artist; if you just want to write good books, then all you have to do is keep doing it.
I was afraid to share my latest project with people because when I look at it, all I see is how much I’ve grown. I don’t hate it. I’m not ashamed of it. But I do feel somewhat detached like it was written by someone else. But maybe this is what moving on is supposed to feel like. And that’s really all I can do now. It’s finished and the part of me that still remembers being twenty years old and pounding out each sentence in an email when my manager wasn’t looking, is satisfied.
So will Orphans of Paradise be the best thing I’ve ever written. I hope not. Because as uncomfortable as it is sometimes, I really do want to keep growing. Which is a good thing since it’s sort of inevitable. And in the meantime—which is every day between now and the day I die—I’m not going to be ashamed of my evolution as a writer and I’m sure as hell not going to hide it. Because hiding; being afraid to share my art with other people because in twenty years I think it’ll read like a middle school diary, doesn’t just keep me from potentially publishing a failure, but it keeps me from sharing something with the world that just might change it.