A few nights ago, I felt content as I drifted off to sleep. I had just put the finishing touches on a screenplay and sent it off to the first competition I've entered in a long time. I'm generally against competitions, but with a couple of new screenplays under my belt, I figured I may as well enter a select few. You never know what might result and I have the money to spend (knock on wood). While laying in bed, fantasies swirled around in my brain: Me winning and being invited to speak at length on the brilliance of my screenplay, the unknowable source of my staggering ideas, the modern state of the industry, what it takes to write a script that matters, man, that can change the whole crazy world. "Yeah," I thought as I drifted off. "I'm pretty good at this writing thing."
The problem? I have that thought every time I finish a screenplay. And then, when no opportunities arise to sell it or produce it, and a few years go by and I happen to reread it for the first time in ages, I look at it with fresher eyes and wonder, "What in the blue hell was I thinking? This thing is a piece of limp crap."
It might not be. It might, actually, be a fairly decent read, one that producers would screw me over to purchase. But because I've changed as a writer, evolved into another artist that thinks differently than I did just a couple of years ago, or even a couple of months ago, I'll always feel that whatever I've written in the past is just not up to par with what I'm capable of creating in the present. Though if enough time goes by, I can look upon it with a twinge of affection. "Oh, look what he was trying to do. How cute."
On the other hand, there are times while rereading where I do feel, "That's a good bit. A sharp line. I didn't too badly with this one." But there will always be scenes, or moments, or sentences, or words that give me pause. "You missed perfection, you idiot. Just because you couldn't see the obvious flaw."
I try to keep that in mind whenever I feel content and confident. No matter how pleased I may be today, that mood will change as early as tomorrow. And it helps me write better. Knowing that Future Me will be full of wrath and fury is a sure way of staying level-headed and remembering to look upon my work with a critical eye.