The perfect is the enemy of the good.
Art is never finished, only abandoned.
— Leonardo da Vinci
You regularly notice that your rate of progress gets slower and slower as you get closer to the end of the song. The beginning creation phase is very fast, and this always feels inspiring. But endings seem to take forever. You’re constantly going back to refine, never quite sure that things are as good as they can be. As a result, you get increasingly discouraged as time goes on, and the final stages of work on a song are the most time- consuming and painful.
Most producers are perfectionists. We want our tracks to be better than the ones that inspire us, and at least as good as some abstract ideal that we have in the back of our mind for what our music should be. But in reality, perfection is unattainable, and continuing to tinker with a song in the very late stages may actually make things worse.
As difficult as it might feel in the moment, it’s important to learn to recognize the point at which the song is “good enough.” This is not the point at which you can continue to make real improvements; if continuing to work is really making things better, then you should continue to work! Instead, this is the point at which continuing to work will yield meaningless or arbitrary results. Learning where this point is in the production process is different for everyone. But if you regularly find yourself endlessly tweaking what is essentially a finished mix, you’ve probably reached the point of diminishing returns.
Most of the time, this late-stage tweaking is the result of a fear of commitment. Once we decide that the song is finished, we might be stricken with doubt: “If I had worked harder, would it have been better?” But it’s important to realize that, by this stage, you’ve probably already made all of the hard decisions that need to be made. At best, continuing to tweak will probably just waste time that could be better spent getting to work on the next track. In the worst case, you might actually go backwards and make the track worse. This is because your initial decisions often prove to be the right ones, and the more time you spend second-guessing yourself, the more likely you are to override your instincts in a negative way.
Although it will take time and concentration, learn to find the point where the track isn’t going to benefit from further work, and train yourself to stop there. In the long run, you’ll finish more music without sacrificing quality.