How To Put An End To It

2012 March 7
I received an avalanche of questions in response to this post, so we’ll pick away at the queries over time.

First up:

“When working on a project, how do you know when to stop?! I could go on editing forever. I’m never completely satisfied, I think I’m done, but then I wake up the next day and want to change something, then find myself changing nearly everything. This is a chronic problem and keeps me from finishing any project I start.”

Recently, we had a workshop for all the employees at my job. During this workshop,  we had to break into groups for a rousing afternoon of brainstorming. After all the flipcharts and markers, each group leader had to present their team’s findings to the rest of staff. One of my colleagues said something that perfectly (albeit inadvertently) answers your question:

“We need to start working to tolerance, not perfection. Our clients aren’t paying us for perfection, so why are we giving it to them for free?”

While his words do apply to our industry, they should also become your new mantra. From now on, instead of waiting to fall in love with your manuscript (newsflash: it probably ain’t gonna happen), as soon as you get your draft to a point where the thought of it doesn’t make you dry heave, you’re done. Hit it and quit it. No incessant tinkering or fiddling or angsty red inking. Drop your pen, step away from the laptop. Hit send, hit print, shove that stack of papers in a drawer and don’t so much as look at it for a month. You are no longer working to perfection. Tolerance is your new benchmark. Embrace it.

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