I remember being so proud of my first compilation of poetry and short stories. I still am. Only 23 years old at the time, independently publishing a book and receiving a couple awards was a huge feat.
Now, as I took forward and prepare to share new stories with the world, my past haunts me.
I look back at what I’ve done and wrinkle my nose. By today’s standards; my standards – I’m not satisfied anymore. With the wisdom and skills I’ve learned since, come new expectations. I know without a doubt that my older stories can be better. They can be more powerful, more informative, and more life changing. Just because they can; should they be?
The answer is easy but the implications are multifaceted. Not to go back and make improvements would be an affront to the gift of what I know as my sacred creativity. It also would mean not doing the best by my readers and super-fans. It would be a disservice to myself and the potential I have to positively impact the world with my stories.
Like most things that are worth it, it won’t be effortless. I’ll have to put myself back in the same wonderful discomfort that comes when you’re tweaking something you’re so close to. I know that I need to be 100% confident about what I put out there into the world. If I’m not confident, if I can’t stand by it – then I can’t look someone in the eye and tell them it’s worth their time or money. I know there are people out there who can do that. But that’s not me.
Stories are like children. They start out small and grow over time. Mature over time. When born they are innocent. Stories need lots of care and attention to flourish. They need nurturing and patience to grow up and make you proud. Then, once they have been sent out into the world – they can come back and end up taking care of you. Financially or emotionally. They can also go out into the world and make it a better place. Either way, your stories will make you proud if you give them your best and don’t settle.
If you send your stories out into the world without giving them your best, they can drain both your bank account and self-confidence.
At some point, regardless of whether they are ready – you have to set them free.
Readiness is subjective. On the other hand, giving your stories your best is actually much more objective then some people give it credit for. Being straight-up honest with yourself can go a long way: Have you given this story your best? Yes or no? If Yes, how do you know? If No, what’s the excuse? Is that excuse really something you’re not able to overcome or figure out? Really?
Does the creative writing from your past still haunt you? Mine did and this is how I handled it. What about you? Have you ever gone back to make something even better or sent something out without giving it your best? I’d love to hear your experiences – please tell me in the comments below.