John McPhee has a piece called “Structure” in the Writing Life column of the January 14, 2013 issue of The New Yorker.
The last paragraph of the article keeps going round in my mind:
“People often ask how I know when I’m done—not just when I’ve come to the end, but in all the drafts and revisions and substitutions of one word for another how do I know there is no more to do? When am I done? I just know. I’m lucky that way. What I know is that I can’t do any better; someone else might do better, but that’s all I can do; so I call it done.”
Reading that made me realize that I’m actually done with my novel, The Answer to Your Question. I better be, because it’s published. But I hadn’t really paused a moment to relish done. Done! No more drafts, no more feedback, no more revisions, no more wondering if I’m done. Because, for better or worse, I’m done. Like McPhee says, maybe someone else might do better, but that’s all I can do; so I call it done.
And boy, done is sweet.
I think of all the manuscripts-in-progress I’ve read or critiqued over the years. Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone telling me their book has been published or they’ve published it. They’re done! I’m always immensely pleased when someone crosses the finish line.
I’m also aware of those who are still running. You know who you are. The finish line seems far away, sometimes wavering in the distance like a mirage, or just when you think you’re about to cross it, it moves farther away.
Keep going. Keep running. Get to done. It can be done. In both senses of the word.