Know When to Quit

I like to write,  but I’m a perfectionist. I never think that any given piece is complete, whether it be a poem or screenplay, yet there is a moment that I have to acknowledge that I’m done with it, and I need to move forward.

It’s easiest for me to drop poetry off. Once its complete, I rarely go back to edit, simply because, when I’m writing poetry, its relevant to that moment.  Two years later, I may not even know why I chose my metaphor, but I did it in regards to my emotions while I was writing.  My poems symbolize a moment in my life that I was feeling emotional, and I wanted to allow myself to reflect on that moment in the future.

While my poetry is a much more personal form of self-expression, my screenplays experience the wrath of my perfectionism.  Simple 4-page assignments that are virtually invisible in the grade book take hours of my time. I concoct characters with back story. I make sure the tone and pace of the piece is fitting. I do everything that I can to have the most professional 4-page script.

I just submitted my first script to a film festival, which was a huge deal for me. The script I submitted was ten pages, and I edited it for weeks. I completed it in May, yet reworked it, changed character arcs, and storylines up until yesterday.  The number of hours that went into those ten pages is probably way too high.  Right now, I’m relieved, because I don’t ever want to touch the script again. I don’t want to edit or rewrite.  I may write it into a feature, but as for the short script, I have to be done.

To all my fellow writers, and artists out there, I am sure you have similar struggles too.  You don’t know when to stop painting, stop sewing, stop rehearsing lines, stop editing.  You want your work to be presented in the most perfect way, and stepping back and accepting that it is finished is such a challenge.  My script is my baby, and sending it off feels so surreal and final. While I wish I could keep mashing out more details, I know that I have other stories in my fingers, and need to get them out as well.

I remind myself that my work is entirely collaborative.  Yes, my script needs to be in the best shape as I can make it, but it will hopefully be passed along to a director who can mold my ideas even farther.  Without me there is no story, but without a production team, it will never come off the paper.  Knowing when to quit is hard, and I still struggle knowing when is right.  But I practice, and I strive to be more accepting of my final products.


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