Thoughts on a reader's question

I’d like to begin this entry with my reply to a question from a reader in Brooklyn, NY:

Q: “Since so much of writing is re-writing, how do you know when you're done?”

A: This is an excellent question!!

If you have taken into account all of the suggestions (and triple checked your work for typos) you should be at the stage of your first rewrite.  After you've re-read your work with the changes made, you will get a gut sense of whether or not you need to continue to rework & rewrite it yet again. No matter what you decide this is a sign of success, not failure.

If you do feel work is still needed, put it aside & do something else. Return to it when it's almost been forgotten to see if you're done rewriting.  You will feel satisfied with your work and will know when you are truly finished.  You will feel that it's finally done. I usually find that I reach this point after I've worked very hard and been away from a particular piece of writing for a breather. You are the only one who should be the judge of this feeling of completion. (Truman Capote was reportedly a huge fan of rewriting his work until he felt it was as close to his idea of perfection as possible.) I hope this helps you.  Welcome to the Re-writers Club!

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The above multi-faceted  question has brought the subject of completion to my mind.  In short: How do we all know when we are really finished with something we’ve been working on?

In cooking (one of my pleasures aside from writing) it’s more obvious, but I’ve also had many great, successful replays with leftovers from previously finished meals that were cooked a day or two ago.  I’m very good at the art my father’s generation (commonly known as the Greatest Generation) who lived through WWII perfected: making dinner from whatever was left in the fridge. Leftover plain macaroni (glamorized on the Food Network as “pasta”) easily becomes a new meal of “fried macaroni” if cooked with a beaten egg or two and some sauteed onion in a skillet coated with olive oil. Served hot with some bread and salad and a generous grating of Parmigiana Reggiano or Pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese, it’s a second act for leftover food.  It makes the cook feel doubly satisfied - getting another meal from the previous meal’s abbondanza (abundance).  This is true completion & satisfaction for a cook who hates to waste food.

As Baby-Boomers the idea of never wasting food - that precious commodity that sent many of their grandparents on a journey here to America (the land of abbondanza) was taught to us first and second generation immigrants along with the alphabet.  The size of our individual portions of the ubiquitous Americanized specialties of Southern Italy (chicken & eggplant parmigiana, spaghetti, etc.) would serve two or three people if served in a restaurant in the old country.  No one who lived two generations ago would have believed that one of the greatest health problems of the USA in the 21st century would be obesity.

One of the motivating factors behind their immigration to this country was having enough food for their families: enough, but not too much - troppo. Extra food would be shared or used for another meal, but
never to be consumed when your belly was already full. As my Granma Mary would say: “Listen to your stomach. It will tell you when to stop eating.”

Any time we didn’t follow this advice because the food tasted sooo good that we had to have more, we regretted it.  Out came the bottle of Brioschi and a glass of water - which was the quickest home remedy
back then for overindulgence in food. Although it tasted like a light lemon/lime soda when we drank it, we knew it was really punishment because we had stuffed ourselves and needed to bring up a burp that would settle our overstuffed stomachs.

During my childhood we knew that Gluttony was one of the Seven Deadly Sins and when we overindulged we almost always felt a bit ashamed afterwards, no matter how good the food had tasted while going into our mouths.

There were consequences to our well-being for indulging in any of these sins which were called Deadly for a reason. If you can name them all, email them to me along with your name and address & I’ll note you anonymously in my next blog and send you a personalized copy of my

And now: Basta (enough) non Troppo.  This blog is finished, completed, Finito.