Recently I put together yet another packet to send to a publisher, this time in an effort to find a home for a collection of short stories. I've been trying this once or twice a year for perhaps three years now, so to fulfill instructions for supplying a sample, I merely copied the first three stories in the group, printed them, and sent them off in the envelope. I've read and spell-checked until I'm heartily sick of those pieces, even if they are among my first-born, so to speak.
Then I found another possible publisher who requests the whole ms. with the query. This time I began to re-read the whole thing(maybe 67,000 words) just to make sure I hadn't missed some ridiculous syntactic gaffe or confusing transition. And there I was again, back at the stumbling block that made me quit trying to write altogether until we got a computer, namely: the compulsion to revise.
When taking art lessons, I heard my instructors repeatedly warn against "overworking" and urging the students to "know when to stop." What my problem seems to be, at least in part, is that I can't figure out how to do that with words. How do you know when to stop? The first story in the group was my second sale, heavily edited when it was published (not by me), and written over 25 years ago. And there I sat, re-wording, cutting, tweaking. Then I did it again for the second story. Now I'm launched on the rest of them. I have other things to do! Why can't I decide to leave well enough alone? Is it because of some book I'm reading for fun this week? Have I been influenced by the blogs I'm becoming addicted to that are written by professionals who put me to shame? Have I taken a new perspective from which to view the original story? Have my cutting and pasting done it any good at all?
In Snoopy's incomparable word, "Aargh!"