Something I have been struggling with during the work on my (current) first novel is this: I am very likely producing the worst book I will ever write.
Assuming I finish it — which given past history is not a foregone conclusion — suppose I find the whole thing too exhausting to do again? Having written only one, it would, by default, be the worst one (and the best I suppose). If I go on to write the second, I should have learned much from writing the first, and the writing should improve. Skills are supposed to improve with practice, are they not? So I am destined to look back on this book and recognize how bad it is.
But there’s no getting around that. It was the same thing when I was learning to write computer software. Every six months, I would look back on my code from six months prior, and be disgusted by how bad it was. Most programmers recognize this feeling. It’s how we know we’re getting better. If ever we look back on old code and feel satisfied with it, it’s a sign that we’ve stagnated, and maybe it’s time to look for a different career. Have you considered middle management?
I expect I will find writing the same. I will struggle to do my best with each succeeding story. And every time I look back, I will be sickened at how badly I botched it. But I will be determined to take my lessons learned to make the next one better. And if ever I look back on a story I’ve written and feel fully satisfied with it? That will be the sign that I’m done writing, I guess.