Today, I did something I haven’t done for almost a year: I read completely through my thesis. My thesis is a collection of 14 short stories, some very heavily worked on that I’m proud of, and some that made me cringe this morning and say, “ugh.” Why did I keep that line? Why did I give that away? Can’t I trust my reader? Why didn’t I develop this more? Why are these characters so plain?
It’s interesting what time, perspective, and life experience can do for our writing. I’d written all about characters in hopeless relationships where really, nothing that terrible at all is happening. I’ll still fight that those stories have vastly different and interesting subject matters (hot air ballons, old forts, lucid dreams, etc) and that the sentences are strong, but maybe I’m too close to the work, because I found a good bit of it boring. Is this a natural thing that happens with time? Should we still be able to read old stories with excitement, or should we all slightly shudder and immediately want to start the next draft?
I suppose it’s better than the alternate, where thinking that those stories are the best I’ll ever do and desperately trying to recreate it. I guess I’m saying that there’ll be no sophomore slumps over here. The first collection I plan to put together most likely will contain versions of some of these stories (at least, the plan is my head goes that way), but it’ll also be new discoveries I’m making, with more attention to closeness to character and heightened tension. I’m ten months out of the MFA now, and even though writing and reading is at a much more leisurely pace these days, I still have this benchmark, this thesis, that places where I was then and where my writing has grown since. All I can hope is that it continues that way.