Thursday, March 12, 2009

Know when to stop writing


When I was a writer on my college newspaper, I became the copy editor and got a job as a proofreader at the printer, so I could have complete control of my words, and no one else could mess them up. This also meant that no one else could correct the mistakes I missed -- not a good way to work.

When I was freelancing for Rolling Stone, I was always re-writing until the last possible minute. This was in the pre-fax, pre-email era, and I'd drive to the airport and pay to have my column air-freighted from NY to CA. There wasn't much profit left.

Words are almost toys for me, like a child's building blocks, Lincoln Logs, Lego or Erector Set.

Rewriting and editing -- especially now with a computer -- is fun. I love to play with words, to rearrange them and try alternatives.

The danger is that a perfectionist never finishes anything.

When I was working as an advertising copywriter, I was notorious for not "releasing" an ad until the last possible moment. Fortunately, someone older and wiser taught me a valuable lesson: sometimes "good enough" really is good enough, and I learned to let go.

Now as a self-pubber who has to be a businessman as well as an artist, I realize that no money will come in if I don't approve a proof and let a book start selling.

However, I never stop editing. I even re-do old blog entries.

With Print-On-Demand I can make improvements to my books whenever I want to. While this means that a person who buys version 2.13 gets a better book than the person who bought 1.28, at least I know that each version was "good enough."

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