“Write the ending.”
That was the point I took away from a blog post I read recently, by a writer whose work I greatly admire. And it’s the type of advice I especially love – simple to understand, easy to do, and it helps me not only in my writing but in other work I’m doing, and in my life in general.
In this particular post, the writer said she had just written the ending of the novel she’s been working on. She pointed out that this didn’t mean she was finished with her novel, but that something she’s had in her head for a while was now down on paper – so to speak – and it was helping her to go back and fill in the sections she still needed to write or tweak. It gave her a stronger sense of purpose, and a focus and clarity that’s going to help her as she finishes writing and polishing her novel.
It’s going to help me, too, in finishing some writing projects of my own. Although I have no problem with writing, polishing, and turning in my column every week, I have three different book projects that are in various stages of completion.
I could list several reasons I haven’t finished any of the books yet, but they would just sound like excuses. And I suppose they are. I also suppose that if I analyzed them more closely or explored them more deeply, I’d find a level of fear involved. Fear of rejection, of being laughed at, of my work not being good enough. Or maybe a fear of the unknown, of failure, or of the work that comes after the writing is done.
It doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is that I have three unfinished manuscripts that I want to finish. And perhaps if I simply take each one in turn and write the ending, that will give me the jumpstart and motivation I need. It will also give me the focus, sense of purpose, and momentum to continue working on them and to get them done.
This advice isn’t just for writing, of course. And it’s not entirely original. One of Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is to begin with the end in mind. And I’ve attended goal-setting and purpose-related seminars and workshops in which we were told to imagine being on our deathbeds and looking at the things we have – or haven’t – accomplished in our lives. The point of these ideas and exercises is to help us figure out where we want to end up, and then figure out how to get there from here.
This all makes sense to me, but it’s never really worked for me. I don’t think it’s because I can’t focus on any one particular thing and stay with it long enough to complete it, or because I can’t envision what it is I really want. It’s more that I enjoy learning and exploring. I don’t always know what, specifically, I want to achieve, until I’ve wandered around a bit. But even though I’m more of a “journey” than a “destination” person, that doesn’t change the fact that at some point, I still need to figure out where I’m going. If I don’t, odds are I’ll never get there. And I guess that’s where I am right now with my books.
So I’m going to take each one of them and write the ending. I know that the endings may change by the time I get there for real, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’ve got something specific to aim for. I’ve got a destination. And I know I can get there from here.
The writer whose blog I’ve been reading, by the way, is amazingly knowledgeable, insightful, encouraging and entertaining. I am in awe not only of her skill but her wisdom, especially since she’s just in her mid-20s. That’s something I know not because of her blog or her bio, but because she’s my daughter. And I am very, very proud of her.
If you want to check out her blog, either for her ideas and opinions or just out of curiosity, her website is www.robinkarleskint.com. The blog post I’ve been referring to is entitled, “Let your Ending be your Guide.” After you read it – or even if you don’t – think about where it is you want to go, in your writing, in your life, or in any goal you wish to achieve. Write the ending. Then get started on whatever it is that will get you there.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February 14, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013
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