How Do You Know That You’ve Finished Creating Something?

How do you know that a lyric, song, story, painting or book is finished?

Have you said what you needed to say?

How do you know?

Have you hit the target number of words for your book?

Have you found a colour and shape in your artwork that fills your soul?

But again, how do you know?

How does that manifest itself?

How do the soul-filling angels tap on your shoulder? 

How many more questions am I going to ask?

I’m a songwriter and I’ve currently been writing an idea for a lyric. A few thoughts on a loose theme have been evolving into something a bit more solid. For me, it’s a question of feeling. Some lines feel right while others don’t and I have no idea why. Sometimes the meaning fits beautifully but the rhyme doesn’t, or vice versa. Other times both meaning and rhyme fit technically but don’t fill my soul. 

And then every now and again, things just come together. A line emerges that feels beautiful for some reason and that is a such a wonderfully delicious, albeit momentary, feeling as I know that this ‘thing’ is finally coming to fruition, most likely as lyrics for a song as that’s my default, but who knows? 

This morning I found myself in a petrol station café on the outskirts of Madrid without internet and without a phone for an hour or so – yes, I survived – but I had my laptop and so I started writing. In situations like this, I usually write down whatever comes to mind and then question it as I go or later. It often ends up as journaling or every now and again it becomes something else such as a song or blog post. 

I have had a title in mind for a while – ‘Remnants of Rain’ – which is from a journal entry a few weeks ago when I had recently moved to Granada, so I started with that. After a while, it looked like this was turning into a song lyric and moving into a different direction. Though I like ‘Remnants of Rain’ as a title, it didn’t fit where the song was going so I’ve put it in the lyrics/titles bank for future reference. 

In the meantime, I’ve written three and a half verses which just came out and I’m even happy with three or four of the lines as things stand, but who knows where the song is going to go. I like to follow the spirit of the moment and enjoy the lyrical ride. With this one, the words have come first and the music will come later. It could just as easily have been the other way round. 

My medium is words and music, but I’m curious about how other creators know when something that they have made is finished.  

Does a painter know by having a feeling too?

How does a novelist know the book is finished?

Or is there something else going on?

How do you know when you have said what you needed to say, if that is indeed your objective in the first place? 

Or is it simply that you needed to let something out of yourself with no other strategy other than the need to express it using whichever medium moves you? 

Doing something just for you, without the need for an audience, live or otherwise.

How does it work for you? 

Photo by Roberto Sorin on Unsplash

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