Monday, January 10, 2011

Quitting is Good?

This post on Lifehacker -- "Create Better Things by Abandoning Crap and Focusing on the Good Stuff" -- might make a person feel slightly better about all the the unfinished work in her desk drawer. Ira Glass talks about how, in the making of his radio show, he has to sort through tons of ideas and try them out in order to find a single good one:

Killing the bad stuff, he says, is just as important as doing good stuff. I agree -- "quitting" is awfully stigmatized, but sometimes it's the right course. Sometimes your work is bad, and you're just wasting time pounding your head against its ugly hide.

However. As someone points out in the Lifehacker comments, giving up too soon really is a bigger problem for most artists. The trick is knowing what's worth finishing and what isn't. Ira Glass doesn't have to worry about that. It's not hard to tell when a radio story put together by a group of people isn't working. It's much harder to know when it's the novel you've been working on alone for five years. And sometimes you have to finish a thing before its true crappiness -- or greatness -- comes out.

And sometimes the crappiness of a project doesn't even matter. It's just the thing you have to do right now, and so you do it.

How do you know if your work is worth finishing?


KooKooKaChoo said...

Nah, I'm not buying it.

I adore Ira Glass, but he deals in non-fiction. He can't fix his stories. I think one of the biggest lessons I've learned by finishing is how to fix a broken story.

Hope said...

I kind of rely on my writers group and other writerly colleagues for feedback on what's good. With poems, sometimes I just take them to an open mic and see what the audience reacts to.

Of course, I mostly just write what I want to because it's not any part of what I do for money. How liberating!

rmellis said...

By "fix" do you mean Goal, Motivation, Conflict? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

jk ;)