I don’t obsess over every sentence in a piece. Some writers do. I don’t really understand that, though I do admire it.
However, when I’m writing something, I do have some sense of which sentences are going to attract the eye, and, hence, which ones demand more attention than the rest. And for these sentences (usually, but not always, the endings of sections, chapters, or stories), I am certainly prone to some serious obsessing. For instance, I just spent literally one hour (perhaps longer) trying to rewrite the last sentence of a story that I just wrote. With final sentences, I usually have a ‘sentence concept,’ a mental idea of what I’m trying to do or say–the image I’m trying to form, or the comparison I want to make, or the thought I want to express. And then I struggle for aeons to get the wording exactly right. For instance, today I kept rewriting the sentence because it contained both “nowadays” and “waves” and I thought the weird similarity in sounds between the two words was distracting.
Usually what happens, though, is that after 20 or 30 minutes, I’ll realize that the entire sentence concept didn’t work, and then I’ll go back to the drawing board, and develop new concepts and try each of those out. And then, when I finally find the right concept, I realize that the exact wording doesn’t matter quite as much (i.e. only 5-10 minutes of obsessing rather than 20-30 minutes).
All of this can be frustrating, because the feeling of “not quite being done” is really annoying, and sometimes I wonder if this story will just linger on, perpetually not-quite-finished, forever, or if I’ll have to send it out with a not-quite-right ending sentence and then wonder, as it racks up rejections, whether another 1 or 2 or 3 hours of working on it would’ve fixed the whole thing.
But what I love is the feeling of being absorbed in the task. There’s nothing quite like rewriting a sentence. It’s the purest, most focused form of writing, and so long as I can keep my mind on the task, it’s actually very pleasant.