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Monday, May 21, 2007

When is it done?

  • "Here's a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't." Richard Bach. This quote came via the T4D from Kirk Weisler on Friday.

  • I recall Galway Kinnell at a poetry reading once saying that for him a poem was finished when he had memorized it. Until he had fully memorized it, until it had settled in him, it wasn't finished.

  • I still chuckle from time to time when I find a recipe for cooking some dish or another and part of the instructions say to "test for doneness".

On Saturday, Allison and I visited my cousin's art studio in NH. She was having an open house and student art show. On the drive home, we were talking about when a work is finished. She had a class this semester that prepared a work for a show on campus. During the last class before the show, an artist had been invited in to speak with the class and provide some insights. He brought some of his work along and that was good for the class to see as he talked about what he was trying to do. He also provided some feedback to each of the students on their works. Unfortunately, due to the timing of the show the students were not going to be able to make any adjustments. There was not going to be enough time.

His approach was to allocate a set time for a piece, and then work on it no more than the allotted time. Allison's approach for now has been to work on a piece as much as it takes to complete it. There are deadlines, like for the show or for the class to submit the work for a grade. So she will work around those deadlines to provide enough time to complete the piece.

Do visual artists have this advantage, that you should be able to look at a piece and tell if it is complete?

Writers have drafts, in various stages of completeness. Before they are done do they make any more sense than an incomplete or unfinished painting?

Do you have a "doneness test" for your writing?

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