Horrible Enough, Done Enough, Enough to Learn

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We’ve all had a writing or other creative project we want to abandon. Now in some cases, it’s a good idea, but I wish to suggest you may want to finish that awful thing. There’s a value in finishing work because then you can learn from it.

When you finish something, as flawed as it may be, it is a complete product. That gives you enough information to evaluate what you did right, did wrong, and can do better. Yes, it may be terrible, but it’s a terrible that you can search for lessons.

So when you look at that crime against your art, ask how you can get it finished enough to learn from. Think of it as a Minimal Viable Product, just one where the word “Viable” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Minimal Tolerable Product, perhaps.

Now you may find, once you complete this, it’s not as bad as you thought, then that’s great! Maybe it’s good enough to use, perhaps after a heavy edit. But what if it’s not? Well, then it’s filled with lessons to learn.

It’s hard to evaluate something unless you’ve gotten it to a complete-ish state. A completed work – flawed as it is – is at least consistent and coherent enough to tear apart. Within it, you see your mistakes, your choices, and perhaps your virtues in ways unfinished work won’t show. Sure it’s ghastly, but there’s got to be something to salvage.

In fact, by completing that creative atrocity, you might be able to break it down for parts. It can be redrawn, rewritten, or recoded. But once again, you might have to complete it to get it to that state.

So don’t throw out that crime against imagination quite yet. Ask if it’s worth completing, if only to be a warning to yourself. You might be surprised what you get out of it.

Steven Savage