Monday, October 15, 2007

A Good Place to Stop

I’ve spent the last few months working with an editor on my novels. We’ve cleaned up some less-than-ideal writing habits, fixed some unclear plot entanglements, changed some overused words. I was working on the third book when I realized that I’d changed the same thing three times.

Then I remembered something my favorite ex-husband, a painter, said to me years ago.

“A good painting is never finished; there’s just a good place to stop.”

I stopped editing. I’ll let the book sit for a few days and then I’ll reread it to be certain I got to that good stopping place. I think I did.

The thing is, in creating anything—dinner, a novel, a painting, whatever, there does come a point in the process when one reaches a good place to stop.

The art is to know when that place is.

The next time you’re working on anything, if you find that you’ve made a change, then changed it back, then changed it back again, that’s the place. Stop. Do something different and let it sit. Go back to it when you can. My guess is that you’ll discover your own delightful stopping place.

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