How to know when a work’s done

I’m talking about a poem or a novel here as a point of reference, but you can add some of your own perspectives, say as a painter or carpenter or gardener or cook.

  1. You have nothing more to say.
  2. You’re tired of the subject. So you close the cover, in effect.
  3. The previous revision was better. So you stop while you’re still ahead or don’t further overcook it.
  4. You’ve run out of time, like coming to the end of a vacation. Or something’s more pressing.
  5. You’re on deadline and it’s due. (Remember, I worked in newsrooms.)
  6. You perform it in public and there’s no squirming or coughing in the audience.
  7. It gets published. A literary quarterly is nice but a book’s even better.
  8. The critics are kind. Though that can make you question their standards.
  9. You arrive at your destination. You know how the story ends, for one thing.
  10. The kids grow up and move away. Or maybe you do.

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