How do you know when you’ve looked at your own work too much?

24 Aug

Yes, I know it’s a long title, but I really want to know.   How do you know when you’ve looked at your own work too much?  When you are no longer a good judge of whether it’s great or it’s crap?

Vivi and I have a novel which we’ve been working on for years (literally, not just “it feels like”).  There are a lot of good reasons why it’s taken so long but, through this experience, I’ve realized one real downside of working on a project too long: at some point you get bored with your own work.  You’ve read it so many times that it doesn’t – it can’t – have the same emotional impact.  At that point you can no longer tell how it will strike others.

After our latest revision, I had doubts about whether the first chapter started in the right place, held the reader’s interest, did enough to introduce the main characters but not be an infodump, and so on.  I winced when we sent it to our critique group.  But then a wondrous thing happened…they liked it.

Not only did they like it, they laughed at all the places we’d hoped they would.  They could “see” the characters.  They loved where we were going so far.  The voice was just right.  Of course, they gave us critical feedback as well, which we were happy to get.  It was like a veil was lifted for me and I thought, “Oh yeah, it is funny.  We did find just the right touch.” Without other eyes on it, I would have still been looking at it through a fog.  Still working on it, thinking it’s not good enough, and not ready to be put out into the world.

But if we keep doing that, we never actually produce anything, do we?  We remain an amateur rather than giving ourselves the opportunity to turn pro.

I want to figure out how much is enough and how much is too much, so I can produce a quality product but actually produce!  As an artist, how do you know?

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2 Responses to “How do you know when you’ve looked at your own work too much?”

  1. hostingthemuse August 27, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I feel the same way when I’m editing a video. You watch the video so many times that you start questioning is this the right footage, will people laugh at the bloopers or am I the only one that finds it funny. There comes a time that you have to trust your instinct and let go. Great post. I think everyone can relate to this no matter what the project is.

  2. ticklingthemuse September 4, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    As the co-writer of that story, I vouch for the fact that this is SO true!! What a nice surprise that was. And you’re right – so many times I feel like I lose perspective in my other works in progress as well. And I wonder if it’s good enough. Sometimes you just gotta put it out there and hope for the best! =)

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