The Morning After
Reading what I wrote on the morning afterwards demonstrates how difficult it is to be objective about one’s own work. I either tend to think I’m playing in the same league with Shakespeare and the big hitters or I really should give up the game. I know in my heart that what I wrought is neither an immortal masterpiece nor an immoral piece of shit, but my reaction always seems to be extreme.
However, with a little temporal distance, I can gain a little more objectivity and get back to editing it—which I believe is what writing is really about. Some writers may be able to do that in their heads, and so that when they sit down to write they are merely transcribing the already completed work from their brains. And perhaps some may be truly inspired; i.e., dictated the final work by their Muse or their subconscious. (Although I find that hard to believe, based on my own experience. A few lines of a poem, yes, but not a completed work!)
This may have a lot to do with why I don’t read my own books once they’re published and out on their own. They’re a done deed. I can’t edit them. I can’t take them back—with an abject apology. It is frightening to think I might gag when I read something I wrote and have since forgotten and put totally out of my mind.
But sometimes I do, for whatever reason. And because of the time passed, it is like reading something that was written by someone else. So my reaction is closer to objective.
My wife recently showed me a poem she’d printed out and couldn’t remember where it came from. I read it and said I didn’t know either, but it was pretty damn good. Then something twigged in my brain. I did a phrase search of my own work in my computer files, and it was from one of my own books! This may not say much for my memory, but I don’t care. I can’t think of anything more gratifying than reading your own work as if it wasn’t yours—and finding it good. No one else’s praise of it could compare.