A few weeks ago, I came across a fantastic quote on creativity in an interview Todd Henry‘s podcast and Joey Cofone.
They were talking about when to know whether something you are working on is “finished” and ready to be released, and Joey came out with this quote attributed to the famous Leonardo Da Vinci:
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
While this quote initially may seem depressing, suggesting that we quit producing art, it actually shows that real professional creatives are willing to let go of their art and release it.
Whenever we produce anything creative, whether it is a painting, a business case, a piece of code, a new song or a new recipe, there is a desire to make sure it is good enough. But at some point, it will indeed be good enough to be released and please other people, even if we could spend additional effort working on it.
The challenge is we do not know whether it is worth spending significant additional effort on it, if it will only bring a small amount of additional improvement.
For example, you might have a version of a screenplay you are working on, having spent 1,000 hours to bring it is in its current format. Your editor says it is great and ready to be released. But you ask yourself if you could make it even better if you just kept on working on it. The question is, if you spent another 100, 500 or 1,000 hours on it, how much better would it become?
10% better? Maybe 15%?
There is a law of diminishing returns, where additional effort does not bring significant actual improvement.
So sometimes, it makes much more sense to release something when it is good enough, and then have the time and focus available to work on the new new project.
Otherwise, you can become paralysed by perfectionism, and keep working on the piece when it was ready to be released long ago.
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