Knowing When It’s Time To Let Go

Yesterday, I returned my revision of Dead, Without a Stone to Tell It to my editor. I was able to complete the revision in about a week, but took a little extra time afterward to review the manuscript. Then Ann went over it as well.

But I realized I have a problem whenever I read my own work—it doesn’t seem to be possible for me to not re-edit as I go. Not major shifts of direction, the time for that is long over, but sentence level tweaks. Changing a phrase here, or swapping out a word there. I admit, I didn’t think that would happen. I expected to do two read-throughs—one following the hands-on revision where I would have to make some changes, and a second where I would just make sure that the formatting was perfect and that no words were missing/incorrect.

But I just couldn’t do it. And neither could Ann.

I remember when my brother Mychael was writing the music for Atom Egoyan’s film Exotica. He made the comment months later that if Atom hadn’t set a deadline, he’d still be working on it. It made me realize that it’s not just me. I think this is a pitfall of creatives—never being fully satisfied with your art and always wanting to make it better.

But there comes a moment when it’s time to consider the work complete and to move on. If we can’t do this, we’ll never produce a finished product. Some beginning writers fall into this trap—they’ll spend so much time trying to perfect the beginning of their story that they never manage to actually complete the novel. But professionals need to recognize that at some point the work is finished. And when they have a deadline, they really need to complete it on time.

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has this continuing goal of perfection. Do you guys ever have this problem, either with your writing or another choice of art?

Photo credit: Anja Bührer/latoday