So this week I faced a dilemma I think every writer faces at some point in the career. I call it “pulling the trigger.” As in do I “pull the trigger” or not?
What am I talking about?
Tuesday, I sent my new novel off to the publisher, but it sounds much easier than it actually was. Because that moment, that pull of the trigger, was preceded by days of agonizing indecision. Is it good enough? Is it as good as I can get it? Would it benefit from one more re-write/revision? Probably. Would the result be noticeably better than what I have now? (I am now working with the seventh complete version of the novel.)
That is debatable.
I was talking with a friend the other day and wondered aloud whether other people go through this and she assured me almost everyone did, especially those in the arts.
A musician practices and practices before setting foot on stage to perform a new song. At what point does she decide she’s practiced enough? When she can perform the piece perfectly? When she can perform it perfectly twice in a row? Five times? Ten?
The same goes for a stage production. When have you rehearsed enough?
For visual artists, from sculptors to painters to film directors, the question is different, but similar. Is it good enough? Is it ready? Can I make it better?
Do I pull the trigger?
Every writer who cares about what they’re doing probably goes through something like this with an article, poem, or story before they send out. Is it ready?
The truth of the matter is that there are no good answers to these questions. Is your poem ready? Who knows? Could it be improved by re-working it? Quite probably, since nothing we do (at least nothing I’ve attempted) is perfect.
Perhaps we’re asking ourselves the wrong question. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking whether we could improve the work given more time, but whether we can improve it enough to justify the time and effort.
We could easily spend the rest of our short lives revising our work in a fruitless quest for perfection. After all, we can never truly achieve perfection in our art. Heck, our definition of perfect can change from day to day.
Instead, we need to stand back with an objective eye and determine whether this work is, today, as good as you can make it at this point in our career. If the answer to that question is yes, then leave it alone, send it out and see what happens.
At some point, you just need to pull the trigger.