There is no such thing as the perfect idea. As Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, ‘Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.’ Or as novelist Iris Murdoch instructs, “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”
Our creative work calls for more action than reaction. Sure, there are benefits to structured procrastination but at some point, we have to sit our ass down (or stand up, whatever your preference is) and do the work.
How do you know when to stop working?
Ernest Hemingway’s writing habits always ensured he sustained momentum. In Moveable Feast, he writes: ‘I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.’
I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s approach for writer’s block was to write badly and then hold on to the bit with the most truth.
Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. So, finally I would write one true sentence and go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”
The discomforting tensions around perfection are means to go, a green light to turn a work into something fresh.