There are several aspects of publishing the debut novel that I didn’t see coming. This is another of them. I imagine with time and distance such sensitivities may subside, but for now it seems any work I do, I do in the shadow of that one novel, that first novel.
I suppose it’s about expectations––mine and my readers’––the desire for continuity and patterns. It’s also about an imagined body of work and how the next project will fit with the first.
This is the compare and contrast that we do with all we produce, whether it be this employer and the previous one, this year and last year, this house and our first. Each significant effort becomes a metric, an aesthetic data point, for those that come before and after. And with this we stare into an imagined future, how the next will look and what we can do to shape it.
This is, creatively, a two-edged sword. Past work can motivate and push us to new innovation and higher effort; it can also hem us in and define our capabilities. We do best to see each project as different, as its own effort, independent of those that came before and after. The relationship between two projects may not be in form or function but in evolution, a recognition that to get to one we must have gone through the other, and we are creatively richer, more skilled for it.