"Art is never finished, only abandoned." ~da Vinci
I've been thinking a lot about endings lately, probably because I've been tinkering with the YA fantasy trilogy that I conceived of a year ago, and for awhile, I thought I was coming closer to a close.
This is the trilogy that I started in January of 2011. In March, I added a major character and rewrote the beginning of the first book. I thought I was done with the draft of book one by June, but then I had an idea and I tweaked until August. After a few revisions and crit partner reviews, I was sure it was complete by October. Then, before going on the query quest in December, I polished it up one more time. Okay, two more times, but who's counting.
Since then, I've kept working on the series, but I thought the first book was as good as I could make it.
I was wrong.
Based on some feedback I received last week, I sat down with the "finished" draft of Book One and started to go through it, and I discovered something that probably won't surprise you, but wasn't quite what I'd expected. It might have been done in terms of story, but it wasn't the best book I could write.
So I flung myself into revisions, slicing and dicing and expanding and expounding.
Is it done now? No. Is it better? So much.
What I've Learned
There's some real truth to the statement attributed to Leonardo da Vinci that art isn't really complete. But I think there's more to it than that.
Art (and by this I mean all creative endeavors, be they tangible, audible, edible, or visible) is an expression of a piece of its creator. Hopefully, we humans are continuously growing and changing, discovering new facets in ourselves and letting go of that which no longer serves us. So it's only to be expected that our art will change, too.
I don't think it's so much that art is ever abandoned, but that the artist arrives at a place where the art is as representative of that part of her soul as she can possibly make at that time. We can't strive for perfection, but we can strive for personal best.
Will my personal best look different in a year or five? I hope so! Does that mean that I will allow this series to become my magnum opus, my never ending project? Not my style.
I do know, however, that I will keep polishing and plucking at this project until it feels as true as I can make it, and then I will give it the chance to enter the world and become something other than my creative baby.
And that is, I think, the scariest thing about art: not that it can be never-ending and all-consuming, but the knowledge that once it's released, it will become many things to many people, but it will never belong to the artist again. So if you're rushing to finish a project (as I often am), slow down. Cherish the time that the art is still in yours. Because someday, it won't be: someday, it will be speaking with its own voice out in the wide world.
What do you think? Product, process, journey, what's your take on the idea of art being finished?