I've been a writer for quite a long time. But only in the last twenty years or so did I take it seriously and do it publicly. My first few full length books are something I look back on and, I wouldn't say they embarrass me, but as I read them I can see a lot of verses that I might have expressed differently if I knew then what I have since learned. But that's the risk a writer takes, his/her work is going to be published and read. It is out there for anyone who wants to to critique or criticize. Some people take that risk by dancing in public. Others give speeches that might be well received or may cause them forever embarrassment. But as they improve in their trade, they will usually improve. I think I have.
Some of the works I write are quite simple, like a few pages of web site content, or an article for a magazine. Most of those projects are fewer than 2,000 words and can be knocked out in a short time, edited until there is nothing else it needs, and shipped of to the publisher. For a writer who is decent at the trade, he/she wants that work to be a good reflection of his/her image. It's going to be out there in indelible ink.
Then there comes the full length book. I prefer to write non-fiction, so I try to make it engaging, but just as important, I want it to be accurate. The cross referencing and fact checking is a never-ending process. To lay down a simple 500 words might lead to a half dozen trips to the Internet and two or three phone calls to various authorities to check my information. Now multiply that out to a project that has 70,000 words and how much background checking that takes.
My current main project is writing the history of Bud N' Mary's Marina in Islamorada, Florida. That marina is iconic in that sport fishermen from all over the world travel to fish off its charter boats. That is coupled with the fact that it has been in business for more than 70 years. So the numbers of people who must be interviewed, and the amount of research needed to bring all the pieces together, can be endless. This project will take altogether eight or ten months to complete. And during that time period the project has become a part of me. I work on it everyday, sometimes only for an hour or two, but more often for four to six hours.
During this time I have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with scores of interesting people. Many of those people are centered around the marina, and many others are more remotely connected. But this project has been very interesting and rewarding.
So what about "Letting Go"? Well, this has happened to me with other projects as well. I get so involved that the project becomes something like a companion. It is a full time activity for quite a period in my life, and it is going to be public. And because of the nature of the subject, there are so many moving parts that it could go on forever. So I have to make a decision about when it will be complete. The work features 100 or more characters. It highlights dozens of others. The stories of adventures and backgrounds of the participants in the project could go on forever.
That's what I mean by letting go. It's not an easy thing. It is a work that might never be complete, just ask the people who think they or something they have experienced should have been included. But one of these days, and it won't be too long, I'll have to let go. I'll have to publish the book and hope those who are included in it are happy with the job I did, and those who believe they deserve a place in the book, but did not make it, are not too pissed with me. Of course there are much bigger problems in the world than this dilemma, but this is what's on my mind today.