Necessity is the mother of reinvention. Gatsby’s fatal flaw wasn’t his exaggeration of self; he dies because his shirts, many as they are, cannot keep up with the change that unfolds around him. I read something in yesterday’s paper about how most people’s careers flounder because they get used to where they’re resting, even if it’s in the dust at the bottom of the ocean. Writing’s the same. You can either push yourself or push up daisies.
The process is akin to long division. You do a first pass, take the remainder, then run it again, until you’re “as close as you like” (my former mathematics teacher’s way of describing asymptotic behaviour) to the exact solution. Why is it such a feat to calculate π to multiple places? I’ve typically concentrated on the technical aspects: consistency of tone, the balance between description and verbosity, why is your dialogue always shit, et c. It’s easier to iterate on these more objective elements, though exactly who defines their object remains a mystery to me – probably the same programmer from whom the words themselves originate. How do you improve on a human heart?
“Write often,” they say, but too often without the necessary “and write better.” Those who I’ve mentored, for lack of a less presumptive word, are the best goads for my Orestes to keep running, running, running away. If I can see them on my tail, pursuing me with furious diligence, how can I afford to stop? There’s no shame in failure, only in the presumption of success. My protégés force me to become a better writer and a better man.