Letting go

I’ve never been one of those writers who obsess over my writing.

Well, that’s not true. Let me rephrase.

I’ve never been one of those writers who obsess over my writing after it’s published.

I know several writers who reread their stuff and fret and rewrite published works and get really, really worked up over their Amazon ranking. Now, I don’t have a published novel out there in the world, and I’ve spent my fair share of time surfing reviews to see if anyone likes my stories. (I have a few reviews I know are favorable that I look up when I’m feeling particularly down, but don’t tell anybody.) For the most part, though, once a story’s been sold, I don’t think about it much. And once I’ve signed off on the copyedits, I wash my hands of it. It’s why I can’t remember how my stories I sold last year. It might seem apathetic or even ungrateful. It’s not. It’s that I don’t consider the stories mine anymore.

They belong to the reader.

Several years ago I ambled onto a quote by Orson Scott Card–something along the lines if a reader liked Ender’s Game, to not think of it as something he wrote, but think of it as something they created together. That quote, more than almost any other writerly quote I’ve read over the years, struck a chord in me. As soon as I read it I felt the truth of it in my bones.

Once my stories are out there, they’re not mine. Yes, they’re my words, and whatever craft I’ve learned makes those words good (or not), and the ideas came from my head and all that. But once a reader reads it, it’s a story we’ve created together. And I find going back and twiddling with already-sold stories a little bit … insulting. I’m changing a story that a reader and I have created together. It’s my absolute right to do it, no question. But it’s like Lucas continually screwing around with Star Wars–he’s messing with people’s memories and childhoods, which isn’t cool. Obviously I’m not on par with Lucas but the point is, it’s something for which I’m mindful.

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