Letting Go

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One of the most important questions any maker of things addresses in their work is How do I know then the work is done? I have worked on projects that were completed in a few minutes, as well as on projects that have stretched over years of on and off tinkering. But no matter how long it takes to shape something, there comes a time you need to or want to let it go.

Knowing exactly when the work is done paradoxically requires acknowledging that no work is ever quite done, only done sufficiently to meet your standard of doneness. There are, however, other routes to finishing and indications of doneness. Sometimes a work is done when it says pretty much what you intended it to say. I say pretty much because it’s often the case that you begin with one thing and finish with something different. If that something different still says pretty much what you had intended, you’ve done okay. How you know this to be the case is a matter of objective facts inherent in the work (is it well-built?) as well as your feelings about the effects of those facts.

Sometimes you declare a work is done because you just want to move on to something else. In plain terms, you’re getting tired of being with it. Other times you sense a threshold of diminishing returns approaching you on the horizon of your work, beyond which further labor will probably not yield substantially different results. You’ve already tinkered and now realize—or more accurately, you’ve decided—that you won’t be doing any more things to your work to improve or otherwise alter it. As the saying goes, it is what it is.

Letting Go is related to the concept of resetting, but is a little different. When we reset we pretend that this time is the first time to bracket off our actions from the noise around us so we can focus. Resetting is starting from scratch, over and over again. If you diagrammed it, it would be circular. Letting Go is a more left to right linear thought process, where we can clearly remember the first time and how it led us here to the 104th time of working on our project. Letting Go is a mindset that acknowledges that the elapsed time span of our project as we have lived with it, whereby it has had a beginning, a middle, and now, an end where we have loosened our grasp to let it fly on its own wings.

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