Not knowing when to stop. We’ve all been there.
You’ve spent hours working on a piece of music (or any art). It’s nearly finished but you decide just to make a few final tweaks. You edit those tweaks and then make a few more.
Before long, six hours have passed, you’ve forgotten to eat, and you can no longer hear the difference.
The chances are no one else will even notice the changes you made.
So when do you leave your creation alone? Knowing when to stop isn’t always easy.
With infinite resources you could go on improving your work forever but at some point you have to let go. It will never be perfect.
As a disclaimer, I don’t actually believe in “perfect”. It doesn’t exist. But rather I believe in the pursuit of excellence. I talk about it in my article about becoming a music professional
As Close as Necessary To Perfection
Seth Godin introduced me to the concept of “As Close as Necessary to Perfection” or “CNP”
As close to perfect as your work needs to be. As close to perfect as your budget allows. As close to perfect as the client demands. When you recognise that, you can let go.
It’s necessary in terms of resource allocation i.e. your time and energy, but also your sanity. Knowing when to stop becomes a health issue.
If you are working to tight deadlines, labouring on minutiae is often a luxury you cannot afford. You need to focus on getting as close to perfect as time will allow. As close to perfect as the client is expecting. Simply excellent
The alternative is missed deadlines which is a sure fire way to ensure they won’t work with you again.
The Never Ending Mix
I had a project which was a six day whirlwind whereby I wrote, recorded, produced and mixed two pieces of music. At midnight on the night of final submission, on mix version 87, I had to draw a line. I could no longer hear what was going on and neither could the client. The deeper in you go, the harder knowing when to stop becomes. Arguably I should have drawn it sooner
Had I not called CNP, I fear I may have been working on it until 9am the following morning.
So the next time you find yourself labouring over minutiae on version 87 of a project… call CNP.
Jim Hustwit is a London based Music Producer, Songwriter and Composer.