“How do you know when you are finished?”
I listened to an interview today with a famous dubstep artist. The interviewer asked, “how do you know when you are finished?” relating to the musician’s process. How does anyone know when they are done? In writing class students often ask me if they are finished. In reality, writers have to judge for themselves when their work is complete. I have been hearing a lot about the idea of iteration. Webster’s dictionary defines iteration as “a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result.” Iterations are time consuming, and yet so meaningful. The creative thought process gets at the heart of picking the perfect word or phrase. Many forms of writing rely on specificity: the ability to pick the right word or phrase, the selection of the perfect image in advertising or public service announcements. It is about grabbing your audience and pulling them in.
This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge, an event in which people blog every day for the month of March. Through this process I have learned that my writing is often an ongoing work in progress. I challenged myself to post every day but often I don’t have as much time as I want to blog. As a result, I put my work out there but then keep rewriting and revising, often in my head or out loud. I don’t revise most pieces more than once, but some posts grab more of my attention. They demand my attention. Asking me to revise, reword.
There are many levels of revision: revising for content, audience, message, tone, focus. Then there is editing, just to make sure it makes sense. All of these processes need time, time to take risks, to make mistakes. Without this time, the writing is not as developed. How do you know when you are finished? It depends. The only way to get there, though, is to practice, to spend time with the writing.