Tag Archives: definition of done

The Ability To Know The End

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

While editing “A School of Many Futures” last night, I realized I could see the end in sight. For a minute, the world froze as I knew the book would be done. It’s strange to have the bolt of inspiration not be “the start” but “oh, good, this’ll be done.”

Sometimes it seemed I wouldn’t complete it – and the Pandemic didn’t help. I had written the book, rewritten it, had it edited, rewrote it during editing, edited it, and took prereader input. It seemed like it’d be forever, even as time ticked down on my well-constructed timeline.

This lightning bolt of understanding led me to another realization – the ability to know something is done is a skill.

I work in the software industry, where many people advocate for a “Definition of Done” for parts of projects. The idea is that you should know what means a program, update, etc. is ready to go. After all, if you don’t know what “done” is, when do you stop?

(I’m sure that sounds familiar to many writers and artists.)

I know people who are just good at done. They can assess end states, itemize needs, and figure out where you need to go. I’m sure you have something you’re good at where you can know done. That skill might not exist in every part of your life.

In the case of my novel, between the Pandemic and challenging myself, I hadn’t asked what “Done” was. In fact, I hadn’t done it for my first novel as well. Clearly, this was a skill I could develop.

I don’t have this problem with my nonfiction work. Perhaps I find such ease because it’s very technical, or that fiction has much more potential. Perhaps my return to fiction is showing gaps in my knowledge. Either way, I’ve found a skill to build.

Perhaps I can start by creating Definitions of Done for my work.

How good are you at figuring out “done?”

Steven Savage