I don't feel like anything I've written lately is good enough.
The last three stories I've really worked on--"Poppet," "The Token," and "The Forest People," all seemed lacking to me, missing some indefinable something that I wanted to be there and wasn't. All three of them took several drafts, not because of the sentence-level prose--I don't have to think about that nearly as much as I used to--but because the stories just wouldn't fly. Not in my head, anyway. Bear in mind that the first two in that list sold already, and when I went back later and reread they seemed perfectly competent to me.
So is it the stories? Or is it me? Or both?
The WWI novel, which I finished well over a year ago, was a giant watershed for me. I can see the improvement in my prose style, especially comparing it to two previous novel attempts, and parts of it still sing to me emotionally. Am I still so attached to that one project that nothing else can match up? Is it like the longlost lover who grows more perfect with every passing year? Or is it that I climbed a mountain with that book, and now there's nowhere to go except onward onto the high plateau? Or down.
I am battling, between making deadlines and making Art. I want to write something that's the absolute best it can be and polish until it's so beautiful I can hardly look at it, and only then send it out into the world. I want to not care about anything but the work and making it shine and sing and all that other metaphorical crap.
And then I think, who do you think you are, Michaelangelo? and what's wrong with fun, simple stories? and geez, overthinking, much?.
Maybe I'd better push all this philosophising into my backbrain, and just get the hell to work on the next project. Because, in the end, forward and upward won't happen unless the words go on the paper.