I wonder if Steve Jobs ever felt this way.
(Yes, I’m starting this blog post by comparing myself to Steve Jobs.)
I wonder if, as he held the iPhone 4 in his hand and described the innovations and advancements, if he looked back at the original iPhone with a bit of a wince and grimace?
So far, the publishing side of the writing life has been a little like having the iPhone 4 sitting on my desk, and being asked to go out and hold up the first iPhone and say, “See this? I wrote this!”
Let me explain. In the last year or so, I’ve had four stories accepted for publication (all online, at this point). The four stories (Cop-Cop Cop, Solomon’s Ditch, Most Dead Birds Are Never Found, and Dudley’s Sacrifice) are all what I would consider to be Short Fiction 2.0. I have several other stories out for consideration that I would consider Short Fiction 3.0, and on my desk, ready for a new round of submissions in the new year, Short Fiction 4.0, with new features, better writing, more mastery of craft.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy that these earlier stories are finding literary homes. I don’t think they are “bad” stories, or I wouldn’t have sent them out for consideration. But, if I compare them with where I am today, they are lacking. It’s an odd thing to think about.
Ideally, as our writing life progresses, today’s work is better than yesterday’s, which was better than the day before. It is difficult for the perfectionist to accept this, but sometimes, we just have to let go, move on, and allow our earlier efforts to be mile markers on our road forward.
Sage Cohen, in her book, The Productive Writer, says there is a balance between perfectionism and sloppy indifference. It’s called professionalism: doing the best work we can do today, and knowing that our best work is yet to come. For me, that means celebrating the publication of some “earlier” stories that were important building blocks for improving my work. Cop-Cop Cop is a fun romp through a sci-fi landscape I rarely dwell in. Solomon’s Ditch is a bit mono-tone, like its main character. Most Dead Birds (forthcoming) is a self-contained slice of a much bigger picture. Dudley’s Sacrifice has a different tone than anything I’m currently writing. These are all fine stories, in their own way, even if they don’t represent my work as it stands today.