John McPhee, The Art of Nonfiction No. 3

No, I just got through it. Stories are always really, really hard. I think it’s totally rational for a writer, no matter how much experience he has, to go right down in confidence to almost zero when you sit down to start something. Why not? Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you. §

An old photo editor of mine always said you’re only as good as your last shot. She stole the quote but that didn’t make it any less true. McPhee is distilling that that down. That last shot (or story) is done. Finished with a capital ‘F.’ There’s no going back. The work is out there in the world. You can’t reshoot yesterday’s front page.

Now it’s time to start over.

Now it’s time for something new.

Now you’re on your own.

Again.