It’s hard for me to read my published stories. Even when they’re committed to print, I revise and edit as I read. It drives me nuts. Eventually, I get over it.
So when is a creative work ready to leave the safety of your documents folder? As many of my Five Writers colleagues have pointed out, we’re never finished, but there comes a time to stop nit-picking, stop re-writing and stop agonizing, and declare the story done. Turn your back. Walk away and let it fly on its own. It takes guts because the next step is sending the story out into the world, risking criticism and rejection.
True to my Gemini nature, I go to extremes. I’ve been reckless and sent stories out way before they were ready to be seen, and was rightfully rewarded with rejections. Now, why would I do something that stupid? I was tired of revising. I was disgusted with not being able to put my finger on what was wrong with the stories. I got lazy. I’m grateful those stories weren’t picked up. If I want to revise published stories I feel are strong, I’d be hitting my head against my keyboard if a half-assed effort made it to print.
At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve re-written, torn apart and re-arranged stories to the point that they no longer made sense. Hmmm, maybe I should send one of those to The New Yorker!
There’s a middle ground and it entails being in the zone. Yes, I’m going to get all artsy-fartsy on you now, giving you absolutely no concrete formula for determining a story’s “doneness.”
The stories I’ve written that seem to flow organically, even after several revisions, simply feel right. There’s a truth to them. They’re alive with energy of their own. Some of these stories, mostly flash fiction, have been published, many haven’t, but I know instinctively, they’re as finished as any story can be finished at any given time. I don’t have that nagging feeling something is amiss. Could I find something to change? Sure. Will that drive me nuts? Probably. Will I be satisfied that I made a good and honest effort? Yes.
So take a look at your work. Be hard on yourself, but cut yourself a break. Be honest about your story, your characters, your vision. Feel more. Analyze less. When your work starts to breathe on its own, stop writing. Step away from the keyboard. Put down the pen. Sit back and feel good that you threw some words together on this fine day.