Although I’ve had some commercial and critical success with my books, I’ve never written a book at whose completion I felt that, like a gymnast making a perfect landing, I’ve nailed it, a perfect ten. Only a year or more later, when for one reason or another I might open the book and find a passage that pleases me, do I say to myself, “Not bad, not bad at all. I wasn’t stupid when I wrote that. How come I’m so stupid today?”
—Joseph Epstein, “The Perils of Prolificacy,” Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays
I feel that way all the time. Apparently I suffer from a type of writer’s farsightedness, where my opinion of my efforts grows in proportion to my temporal distance from it. Up close, I can only see wasted potential and disappointment. “I felt stupid when I wrote that. How come it looks so much smarter in retrospect?” Ah, hindsight — both the torment and the solace of an amateur writer.