A few days ago I pulled up on my computer screen a piece of writing I’d done quite a while ago. I read it over and, sure enough, there were a number of changes I wanted to make. It’s always like that for me and for every other writer I know. It seems we’re never satisfied with a piece of work, even one that has been published.
Why is that?
At first glance, it can be ascribed to spotting mistakes—typos or the like—or perhaps fussiness. Perhaps it is due to a streak of perfectionism or even lack of self confidence. There always seems to be a better way to say things. I was discussing the phenomenon with some friends and I think there might be a bit more to it than first appears. Through the passage of time, situations change. We change. None of us are exactly the same persons we were a year or so ago—even a few months ago, for that matter. Each of us has added to him- or herself through experiences, through living. To some extent, our ideas, our way of thinking has changed. The changes may be slight or extensive or anything in between, but we are not exactly the same.
Through this revised way of thinking, our former ideas and concepts change to a greater or lesser extent. That is to be expected and, if we really think about it, welcomed. One only hopes that the changes are a matter of us progressing. If that is true, then the changes we make to the piece of writing will improve it. Of course, one can spend too much time on a piece of work. For one thing, there is a certain danger in destroying the spontaneity of the work. For a second, there is always a time to put it away and move on to other things. I remember a piece of wisdom offered by a poet to the effect that a poem is never finished; it is simply abandoned. I think that applies to any piece of writing.
I wonder—can the same thing be said of life?