Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Knowing When to Stop

Most of you know that, in addition to being a writer, I am an artist. One of the keys to good painting is to know when one’s work is finished. There is always the temptation to add one more stroke of the brush, but that “one more stroke of the brush” could be fatal to the painting. Overdoing it destroys the painting’s freshness and spontaneity. 

The same is true in writing. We can polish and polish our work until it loses its freshness. A key, therefore, to good writing (and good painting is to know when to stop. 

Usually the type of writer who doesn’t know when to stop is the perfectionist. The perfectionist thinks that there is always something more that can be done to improve the work. The truth is that there is a point when a work is finished. To go beyond that point is to destroy the work. 

If you struggle with always wanting your work to be perfect, remember that perfection is not excellence. Indeed, perfection can hinder excellence and even ruin it. 

So the next time you get that inner feeling that your work is finished, stop! Then submit it and move on to your next project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 thoughts on “Knowing When to Stop

  1. Ah yes, MaryAnn, I know what you are talking about. I sometimes have to resist that temptation to keep ‘tweaking’ my writing…but over the years I’ve learned to shut it down when it is time. Usually:) Thanks for the encouraging words!

    May 13, 2009 at 9:24 AM

  2. It is the hardest thing in the world to send your manuscript off to an editor and then later think, oh, I should have changed that word or sentence!

    But we must trust the Lord to take what we have and bless it and do with it what He would.

    Yes, we need to know when to stop and then step out in faith.

    May 13, 2009 at 12:23 PM

  3. This really resonated with me. It reminded me of something Tim LaHaye said in one of his sermons. He told the story of an artist who had to be forcibly removed from the canvas after she’d finished a painting or she’d ruin it.

    What impressed me the most was the line about perfectionism not being excellence. Thank you so much for the reminder to strive for excellence, not perfection! We’ll achieve the latter in Heaven, but we can have the former here!

    May 14, 2009 at 12:47 PM