Some time ago I mulled the idea of going back through and revising all of my existing works, and issuing them in new "definitive editions". These would showcase the skills I learned over the past several years when it came to editing and refining a finished product — a way to buff out all the scratches that still nag at me with my work. I had the good sense to resist such a dumb idea.
Or maybe not so dumb, I don't know. Many authors in previous decades revisited their work constantly and only left behind a definitive edition of anything after they were dead. Maybe I'm well served by taking my earlier work and just cleaning it up a little. The problem is, I know where that goes.
I'm not talking about the full-blown revisionism as embraced by the likes of George Lucas, where he not only heavily revised his earlier work but denied people the opportunity to compare the changes. I'd leave the older editions of everything in print, so people could see for themselves. But even a little of the temptation to touch things up can be distracting.
For one, I don't know how long I've got. I'm not hinting at news that I have some terminal disease, only that I've long lived with a very strong sense of how short life is, and how difficult it is to spend it wisely. I'd like to spend the time I do have working on new things, not revisiting old ones.
The other thing is, my own instincts about what in my work needs "fixing" may not be correct. I might be best served by leaving well enough alone. The other day I was grumbling to myself about this or that thing in Flight Of The Vajra, and how much better it might have been if I had only done this or that. Then I realized this is the kind of thinking that prevents you from ever finishing anything in the first place and walking away from it.
What's roughest about this kind of thinking is how it creeps up on you. It slides messages under your door; it hangs out on the other side of the street and smiles sidelong at you as you get into your car; and before long you've let the damn thing into your living room and you're letting it camp on your sofa and eat out the contents of your fridge. It never just says, "Can I come in?" I don't remember every step of the hopscotch I played that took me from "maybe I should look at my earlier books" to thinking about how to market and package the results — but that last was a sign I was taking the whole project more seriously than I really needed to.
This idea comes up from time to time, and I always revisit it with the sense that maybe this time, I will find a justification for it I didn't think of before, or a boon that I previously didn't anticipate. And, of course, nothing of the kind turns up. And before long the idea goes back on the shelf where it rightfully gathers dust.
Until next time, anyway.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind