One of the things I’ve learned about myself and writing is that if I don’t have an externally imposed deadline, I tend to rework a piece to death.
One reason for this is that I am uncomfortable with other people seeing me in my many imperfections. Of course, this is completely goofy because I make mistakes, in full view, all the time. Like this morning, when I spoke too sternly to my youngest son–forgetting that, as a 10-year-old with boundless energy, taking care of his dishes after breakfast is just not as high on his priority list as it is on mine. Or last night, when I got frustrated with my family because I was too tired to have planned a proper dinner.
Another reason is that I think, with time, I can always make things better. I can think something through more clearly. I can find a better turn of phrase. Eliminate unnecessary words. Read everything that has ever been written on the topic and start again.
I now know that letting too much time pass, or engaging in more than a few rewrites, gets me into dangerous territory: a place where I care more about trying to achieve some kind of imaginary perfection than in releasing whatever it is that is trying to come through me. And the result, inevitably, is that I go in circles until I ultimately come to a suffocating and stultifying dead-end.
I also know that, lately, something important has shifted. Because what I really want now, more than finding just the right word or insight, is to be in relationship with others–my readers, in this case. And that requires letting go.