The subject of this post is why I sometimes don’t edit what I wrote in the past, whether or not I would write it now.
I’m not the biggest fan of Tolkein in all ways (why do I even feel the need to say this? I guess because some people are? And some people also tend to assume that if you quote someone that means you think everything they have to say is wonderful? Or maybe they don’t and that’s a misimpression on my part?) ….
Either way, in The Two Towers, when Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli meet Gandalf the Wizard again after he returns from something that might be a little like death in his battle with the balrog, one of the things he tells them is that he has forgotten things he thought he knew, and that he has remembered things he had forgotten. And I think that speaks to something very basic.
Life is a process of learning, un-learning, re-learning. And sometimes when you learn one thing, it means you forget something else, or at least an angle you had on something else. There might be a truth in your previous approach that you lack now. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have learned the good thing. Or that it is not a step on a journey to being able to understand more, not less, to know all, instead of just a little piece (not in the sense of omniscience, but in the sense of all you know or have known).
Maybe sometimes it’s a little like this. If you are on a journey to a mountain peak, sometimes you descend from a ridge, and then you can see less than you could before. Or sometimes you have a glimpse to the top of the mountains, but then as you climb closer to the next ridge, the ground you are climbing – the very fact you are getting nearer – can cut off your vision. But that doesn’t mean you are not going towards the peak or that you won’t get there. And the same thing about how sometimes you climb to a ridge, and you can look around you and see a great deal, but then you might have to descend a bit to climb up higher, but when you get to the top you will be able to see all of it and more. (Don’t stretch the analogy where it isn’t mean to go; don’t try to make it about every aspect of life or knowledge or growth.)
I’m certain this is something that has happened in my own life. There are things that I once knew a great deal more clearly, or in a different way, than I know them now. And there are things where, seeing them too clearly, can blind you to approaching them in other ways. And some of these things – I know there was something there I knew, but that doesn’t mean I yet have the place to know what was right and what wasn’t, and the two might even be too interwoven to separate.
And so this is one of the reason why I often leave things in my books, and don’t rewrite them, even if I’d never write them that way where I am now. Just because I’m not there now doesn’t mean there wasn’t something there, and if I change it, I could destroy an invaluable good. You have to understand something, really understand something, before you can know how to – or if you can – change it without doing more harm than good.
I don’t know what maturity means, so either I think maturity is nonlinear, or else it isn’t a simple and complete progression of knowing and understanding better. Sometimes youth and inexperience have their own vision, that we can’t reach at a latter stage in the journey, though I have hope that all can be brought together and be united as one. That nothing is ever lost. So maybe I’m saying that immaturity is as valuable as maturity ….
Anyway, I think it would be arrogant of me to go to stories I’ve already written and change them all over to suit my current mood. Goodness, that mood could be born of present-narrowmindedness, that doesn’t see or have the patience for what was going on earlier! It would be assuming that I, as I am now, know better in all ways than I as I was then. To think that I, as I am now, remember perfectly what I intended or thought then and know when I know better, or even that I was incapable of doing something beyond my conscious awareness, and that I am now in a place to change that.
Ultimately, it would go against the openness of mind and heart required for me to write diverse characters, to write diverse journeys, personalities, and beliefs, and to be able to enter empathetically and write with real understanding more diverse journeys and personalities. For me to change the characters and journeys I wrote in the past, from what I saw and understood then, to whatever suits my sensibilities now, would be to turn my back on ever wider understanding and sympathy. It would render me incapable of writing my characters however they come to me, without judging them or their journeys externally or trying to make them fit a formula, and while I’m certain I was not perfect at this in the past, and I am not perfect now, it would be a step away from learning to be more open and judge less.
And please don’t forget or misunderstand: this is about my process, my experience, my journey. No one else’s. This is NOT a criticism of anything anyone has chosen to do or not do.