Thursday, January 17, 2008

How do you know?

Jennifer Thermes, an artist who blogs at Art, Words, Life, posed this question:
"How do you know when you're done with a piece of art? Or writing? Or are they really ever "finished" at all?"
Here's my answer:

Writers struggle with this, too. I find that I want both clarity and mystery in my poems, and if I overwork them, I get neither. For novels, it's tougher, because there are so many places you could polish and polish, but I think I'm still looking for the same two things: the story line runs clearly through the book, but it has a layer of mysterious otherness---beauty, if you want to call it that.

I also think of it like music---a clear theme with enough overtones to make it full and rich.

And yes, a deadline helps. So does an editor/agent combing over it until you're both sick to death of it.

And one more thing---a feeling of detachment, as if I didn't really write the work at all. My words look slightly alien, independent, as if I've let them go and they've become something true and alive.

Go leave a comment over at her blog, if you want to. She's going to round up all the answers on Friday.


  1. Sara- Great thoughts, as usual. That feeling of detachment is a tough one, sometimes! Thanks for linking.


  2. Sara, I agree with all you said, especially the detachment. With a poem, if I still feel an open connection between the poem and me, I think it's still "in progress." But once it's breathing on its own, that umbilical cord has been cut (ick), and it lives. And then I don't need to mess with it anymore! It has been created, faults and all.


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