Today (or ‘however many days ago’, by the time this post goes live) I visited a nearby beach.
The day was cold. Or rather, the beach was cold, and silver-toned, and fog rolled overhead like the gray-brown-green surf below. But out of the hills and nearer my neighborhood, the weather was merely chilly, and warmed by shining sun.
The Bay Area – also known, several microclimates stacked inside a trench coat.
Tirzah was further up the beach (the better to catch a little cell service and chat with family), leaving me all by lonesome. Though ‘lonesome’ is hardly the word, what with all the calling gulls, strutting corvids, and healthful quiet time for company. And, of course, the ocean, heaving and frothing and gliding over saturated sands, sliding like rain-patterned lace over satin, shush, roar, sigh…
Seated on a rock, weathering the cold, I got to thinking (by who knows which roads) about the books I’ve published.
First thought: They make me proud.
Swift second thought: They could have been better.
Thought 1: For crying out loud, let me live.
Thought 2: I’m just saying. She could write them better now.
Could I, though? Yes and no.
I’m close to a decade older than I was when I first started self-pubbing. Since then, I’ve written a heck-ton more words. I’ve been exposed to countless more experiences, conversations, points of view, and stories – both fictional and non. I think about more stuff, and from more angles. I have different ideas about how to make a book its best self.
What I do not have – unlike in days of yore – is the mad creative energy to turn every bit of spare time into art.
So, pure theoretically, if I were to write, say, The Wilderhark Tales today, they could be masterworks. But speaking practically, there is no way I would write The Wilderhark Tales today, because I am Tired™.
A comforting thought, then: Writing my books when I did = writing them the best I ever could.
And I mean, the alternative is what? Waiting until you see the Grim Reaper coming for you across the street, then real quick hitting ‘publish’ on that book file you’ve been fiddling with for the last fifty years? ‘Cause that’s pretty much the only way to guarantee that you won’t come up with a better version of the story later.
Done with her phone call, Tirzah rejoined me nearer the waterline. By now, my fingertips numb and yellow from cold, I was about ready to call the beach trip quits. But first, we detoured a-ways to investigate what had one group of gulls so excited. Some sort of driftwood pile, perhaps? Looked kinda like massive bones.
On the way, I shared my proud/discouraging/comforting musings – including a recollection of The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine. Maybe you’ve encountered them. Tiny little fairy story books, some not even a hundred pages long, spinning their take on The Princess and the Pea, Toads and Diamonds, and the like. Just the right size and subject for Early Reader Me. And an inspiring sight for Pre-Publication Author Me, those candy-colored bite-sized books nestled among other full-sized children’s and middle grade titles on the public library shelf.
“See?” they said to me. “Books don’t have to be thick. And they don’t have to be particularly profound. They can be short ‘n’ sweet fairy tale retellings, and still have a place on shelves and in readers’ hands.”
Another comforting thought: Like Levine’s Princess Tales, my Wilderhark Tales don’t need to be redrafted into something they’re not in order to matter. I wrote them as I wished them to be, and those slim, fanciful novellas are good. Imperfect? Yes. Just like every other book I ever read. Ever wrote. Ever loved.
And turns out? That pile of driftwood was massive bones. A whale carcass had made its way onto the shore, and the gulls were rightly excited about it.
All told, an entirely worthwhile beach trip.