How often do you write something, think it is perfect, and then two minutes or two days later, you find all these points you missed or words with meanings you never noticed before? Or you do something and later regret it or realize you could have done it better? And you imagine other people noticing the same deficiencies you noticed, and because of what they notice they think of you as lacking in insight or vision or whatever.
It is so difficult to see ourselves or our actions clearly. It is impossible to know all that we might wish we knew.
Writing is never done. There is an illusion or maybe a delusion that you can do something, create something, and if you feel it is perfect now then it will be perfect forever. How you perceive or think about it now will be how you will perceive it later. You think of the piece you just completed as having a character totally divorced from your character, as the reader.
I was recently listening to the NPR Ted Radio Hour and Daniel Gilbert, author and a professor of psychology at Harvard, talked about the “illusion of stasis.” You can reach a point in your life where you think you have arrived at the “end of history.” Most of the changes you will go through will have already happened. What you think now will largely be what you will think later.
But nothing is static or complete by itself, or perfect, except “in the eyes of the beholder.” You might feel that something you create is wonderful, especially if you did the best you could, at that particular moment in that particular place and maybe with those particular people. And it might be wonderful. But what is wonderful or perfect is the whole situation, not any one part of it.
When you write, if you focus just on the writing and forget the entire universe that contributed to that piece, you might get lost in what you are thinking about. You might get lost in the story you are telling. And later, when you realize what you had missed or how your view had changed, you might berate yourself for your shortsightedness. Let go of this judgmental thought and be kinder to yourself.
But if, for that moment, you have done your best. If, for that moment, you have lived, thought, loved, and been sincere ⎼ If you have been real to yourself and not left thoughts unrecognized or important words unsaid, you will arrive, as fully as possible, in a new moment. You will recognize that because you did what you did in the past, you can now see even more, imagine even more, feel even more.
Intellectually, you know you are constantly changing, and hopefully learning, maturing. But change is so ever-present you might not notice it.
When I wrote my book, my agent and developmental editor, Jill Swenson, said something to the effect that you are never done writing, but sometimes you have to be done when you’ve done your best, nevertheless. You can never tie up every loose end, but you need to tie off everything you can. That’s why there are editors. That’s why there are sample readers. A book or any creative piece is not just about one person sitting by him or herself writing. It is also about a community, a universe that inspires, educates, and criticizes.
So when you write or make decisions, keep in mind that you are not only constantly changing but you are this process of change. You are always surrounded by more you don’t know than what you do know. Yet, in order to gain a larger perspective, you can, when you have finished writing for the day, step out of the story you were hearing in your mind or writing about. You can:
*sleep on it, take a walk in the woods, practice mindfulness or meditation.
*imagine how different people would hear what you have written. You can imagine the piece you created on the computer screen of your editor, for example.
*read the piece to someone and ask for their feedback. When you read a piece out loud you also hear your piece differently than when you read silently.
*or (when you think you’ve made a decision) imagine how different people would think of or be affected by it.
And you do this unconsciously all the time. We all do. You constantly imagine who your readers are and what they might say about your writing. Every word you write or say always has an imagined audience. Why not make it conscious and diverse?
You are, always, not just yourself by yourself. That is only part of the picture. You are also and always part of an infinite universe speaking and acting a moment into existence. No one word, no one blog or book or library or computer can ever encompass all of that.
But you can do your best to step out of any story you are telling in order to better hear what you are saying and better feel and incorporate this larger perspective, this larger self into your life.