Trying to decide if a piece is finished can be as difficult as any other part of the creative process. Whether you’re working on art, music, writing, or another creative form, deciding when a piece is complete (and being confident that it’s the right time to walk away) can take a clear and informed perspective.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding if a piece is finished:
1. Complete the Message
Is the piece saying everything you want it to say in the exact way you want to say it? Is the message coming across the way you intended or in a way that you’re happy with? If so, then the piece is done. If not, then perhaps you need to spend more time with it.
2. More or Less? Less is More When It’s Finished
If you add more to the piece, will it continue to bring out further aspects or will it start to confuse the message/meaning? Will continuing to work on it bring the piece closer to your goal or muddle your intention? If your target has been hit, then the piece is done and you should walk away.
3. Is there More to Explore?
Is there anything else to explore with your piece? Is there anywhere you can/want to take it? If so, try to add a little more a bit at a time. If you feel, on the other hand, that you’ve taken the piece as far as it can go and in every direction it can go, then it’s done.
4. Do You Have More to Invest?
Do you have more to invest in this piece? Do you have more time? Do you have more materials? Do you have more ideas? Do you have more energy? If so, then go ahead. If not, then put the piece aside.
5. When in Doubt, Ask a Friend
If you can’t decide on your own if a piece is finished, then try asking a trusted friend or peer. Do not ask them if they think the piece is done – instead ask what their thoughts are about the piece. Ask them what the piece says to them, what they’re attracted to in the piece, what they noticed first and what took them more time to notice. If they’re answers match your intentions or satisfy you, then you can feel confident that you’ve reached your goal and your piece is finished.