I used to fuss over every word I wrote, but especially the first paragraph. I'd agonize over word choice and word order. I would spend as much time polishing as writing, which meant, I'm afraid, that I spent a lot of time polishing turds. I wouldn't say it was an obsession, but it was a preoccupation.
Why? Because I couldn't get this image out of my head of an editor, pipe in hand, opening the manila envelope containing my story, reading the first paragraph, shaking his head sadly and saying 'So close. If only he'd said it a slightly different way."
Things have changed. I've changed.
It's not that I have no interest in writing a great opening paragraph. I have written and perversely enjoy writing beginnings far more than I enjoy writing 'the end.' What has changed is that I no longer write to be published, on a psychological level, but to explore stories and themes and to follow an odd idea to its conclusion.
Once you stop caring about rejection, once you detach yourself from what happens to the story after you finish it, you are free to do, literally, anything in and with the story. And then you're free to re-do it until you have something that says exactly what you want it to say.
And that, my friends, engenders a far more powerful feeling than any acceptance letter I have ever received.