On Letting Go

“It’s not my best, just my first.”

It’s the phrase I’ve been repeating as I promote the book and my first long-form piece. I’ve had a hard time letting go.

For weeks, I passed my story back and forth with the book’s associate editor, Dave Ake. Words were added, ideas were scrapped, entire scenes and characters cut. It was a frustrating process, but one that ultimately led me to a better understanding of how to construct a story.

When Dave sent me the email that said that we were on our last edit, I was more panicked than excited.

Done?! That’s so final, I thought to myself. I began to fret over all the things I could have done differently, like start writing much earlier, for instance. You see, I spent a lot of time (months) writing and deleting, holding back and wondering if I had the courage, and skill, necessary to pull this off. The answers I found were that, yes I had the courage, but not the skill. And that’s ok. Writing is an imperfect art, more so for newbies like myself.  And it takes some confidence and experience to accept that fact.

But, the story was indeed done. Dave would soon be getting on a plane headed to Vietnam and our time working together was coming to a close. After one pass between the book’s copy editor, Rhett Umphress, and I, it was finished, laid out by our designer extraordinaire, Ms. Kelly Shea, and published online just a short time later.

I had fallen asleep early on the night that my story was posted online. I woke up to several congratulatory texts and tweets. All of which stirred the panic in me again. I wished I could have continued rewriting until it felt perfect.

The rewriting process, as I found near the end of the Invictus project, is a little like magic. It opens your eyes to the story’s potential. But, it could also last forever. I rewrote on my story for about a month. The more experienced writers of the group knew that the rewriting process was of the upmost importance and rewrote for several months. I wanted to get lost in the rewriting process and artfully craft a story better than I could have imagined when I wrote my first words. But somewhere between that last edit and the story being published online, I had to let go.

Now, that’s a process that could use some magic.

I struggled, and found myself apologizing for my work. To let everyone know that in retrospect, my first story was like my first kiss; a little sloppy. I was discussing the book project with a friend last week when he called me out on my apology.

“I’m excited, but now I know it could be so much better,” I told him.

“Just be excited,” he replied.

And that’s a challenge I’ve accepted, to retract my apology and relish in the excitement of being published for the very first time. For a while I contemplated continuing to rewrite my story after it was published, until it was perfect in my eyes. But, now I see that’s silly. It’s time to start something new, and fret over it for as long as I possibly can.

Until it’s time to let go again.