Somewhere I ran into this Kurt Vonnegut quote
Tellers of stories with ink on paper have been either Swoopers or Bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.
and the concept of “Swoopers vs. Bashers” has remained with me.
I am, quite painfully, a Basher. The world of blogging (and the world in general) can seem unfair to Bashers. We read our thoughts in others’ “higgledy-piggledy” prose everyday and cringe. (The one problem with KV’s thought above is that a lot of what we read – even published work – is either a first draft or pretty darn close.) Meanwhile the relevance of our (perceived) masterpieces withers away as they sit unfinished.
The same idea has been expressed in the movie industry. I heard something to this effect on a DVD commentary once:
A film is never so much finished and sent out to the world as it escapes.
The point, as I take it, is that left to his own devices a filmmaker never really “finishes” a film so much as forces outside his control force him to stop tinkering with it.
This is one of the useful functions of deadlines. The problem comes in when you also use the completion deadline as the cue to start a project. Maybe every writing project should have a start deadline as well as a finish deadline.