I know why I write. I write because I want to take you out of your world, and into the one I've created, and let you see what I see. If you are familiar with my work, there may be some question as to why you would want to go there, but I leave that to your discretion.
In order to take you into the cell with the crazed and lustful monk, I need to choose my words carefully. There is a limit to how many you will read, even if they are very good words, like 'sizzle', and 'moist', and 'eggplant'. But I need several to make you smell the spoilage and feel the cold dampness when you are cuddled in the warmth by the fire. So in the final draft, I struggle, sometimes with a phrase, sometimes a word, sometimes a single mark of punctuation. I call people I know, and I say, "Does this need a comma?"
They say, "It's two in the morning," and then offer helpful suggestions about where I might put commas in general, often in ways that are physically impossible, and I let them get back to bed.
Does it matter? I don't know, in truth. I'm not sure which moment of carelessness will be the one that pulls the reader from the story and destroys the illusion for them. I only know I want to avoid reaching that point. But if I wrestle with every word on the page, the story will never get told at all, and you will never dance with your lover in the cemetery beneath a full moon.
So how to decide? I've heard of the 80/20 rule, wherein only 20% of your effort produces 80% of your work. I hear you, Vilfredo Pareto, but I'm not ready to buy in just yet. That's barely a B, and I think I can do better. In writing, at least, for me, that 80% is a framework, a test run to see if the story in my head can make it to the page. After that, it needs more time, more careful structuring, a tweak in dialogue. Still, I'm never quite pleased. Not everyone is sitting on that porch, waiting for that school bus, knowing that childhood is really over.
But that has to be ok. I am learning, still, to come around to the idea that I can never be finished. It will never be everything I want it to be, and it can't. But it can be good, even good enough.