July 8

The Work Is Never Complete

“As a creative worker, you’re not really paid for your time, you’re paid for the value you create. Just showing up and doing a set of tasks every day doesn’t cut it.” – The Accidental Creative

Become comfortable living with open loops.

Could it be better? What if we got it wrong? Maybe I should tweak it just a little.

One of the unique challenges of doing creative work is that you are never certain when a project is really complete. There is always something you could do (or could have done) to make it better. It’s difficult to let go of work once a project is complete, and sometimes – maybe even weeks or months down the road – you have a sudden flash of brilliance and the perfect solution comes to mind, long after it would have been useful. 

If you read my books in sequence, you will notice that ideas introduced in one book are often fully fleshed out in the next one, because I just couldn’t let go of a concept until I knew I had it just right. Or, I had a sudden insight that led to a new breakthrough in how I approach a topic. This is very typical of long-arc creative work. It becomes what it’s supposed to be over time, in layers. 

It is unlikely that you will ever be fully satisfied with your completed work. Or, if you are, you will look back later and wish you’d done something differently. That’s the nature of the creative process.

So what do you do with this? Learn. As you consider the work that you’ve completed or are struggling to complete, what doesn’t quite sit right with you? Where do you now realize that you could have done something differently? What can you learn and apply to future projects to short-cut the process and get it right quicker?

As creative professionals, we don’t have the luxury of tweaking until we are satisfied. So, we need to learn from the observation of our own work, and apply those learnings to future work.

Question: As you reflect on your past work, is there an insight you can gain and apply to something you’re working on right now? 

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