How difficult it is to let a piece of writing go. With my nonfiction work, I’m usually under deadline, so I’m forced to send a piece off or lose a client. Fiction is another story.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s essay (My Life’s Sentences) in the Sunday New York Times last week struck many chords with me. But one paragraph in particular still resonates:
“Even printed, on pages that are bound, sentences remain unsettled organisms. Years later, I can always reach out to smooth a stray hair. And yet, at a certain point, I must walk away trusting them to do their work. I am left looking over my shoulder, wondering if I might have structured one more effectively. This is why I avoid reading the books I’ve written. Why, when I must, I approach the book as a stranger, and pretend the sentences were written by someone else.”
I am impressed that she can release her work into the world at all. I re-read the stories I wrote for my MFA and the stories I have written since, and I am horrified at the twisted strands I find, rusting metal sentences wrapped around a pole.
I can’t stop fiddling with them. I can’t stop. I can’t.