Cleaning the kitchen and writing

Stephen Baker

My wife complains no end about how I clean the kitchen, because I often stop when the job's 90% done. I enjoy the beginning of the job. You wash a big pot and put plates in the dishwasher, and suddenly the counter's clear. Progress is palpable. But the last 10% of the job--the glass you left on the table, the stains on the stove--they seem to take 50% of the time, and provide no satisfaction. So my temptation is to leave a dirty spatula or two in the sink. Why sweat it? They'll have company in no time.

Now I'm realizing, as I write the chapters of this book, that each one is a kitchen clean-up. I'm leaving the details, including the hard stuff I don't know the answers to, for later. It's easy to think that the world, like pitching staffs, features at least two types of specialists, starters and closers. It's true elsewhere, too. Writers, editors. Dealmakers, contract lawyers. But in this case, it's up to me to fill those holes, like it or not. And the idea that 10% of the content might require 50% of the work is... unsettling.