I’m not good at goodbyes.
It doesn’t matter if I’m the one being left or the one who’s walking away. Goodbyes are terrible. I don’t like endings. I don’t like uncertain futures, or wondering if I’ll ever see someone again.
Which makes for an interesting life as a writer, since part of our job is getting to know people (fictional or otherwise) and then leaving them to go onto the next project.
Goodbyes are never easy. They’re never pleasant, they rarely make you feel good about the difficult choices you have had to make. But goodbyes are also an inevitable part of being a human. However they fit into your ever-expanding world, you can’t escape them. You can try running from them, from their aftermath — but in the end you do have to face them.
And maybe writers are better at this than anyone. Because whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether you’re a blogger or an instructor or a poet, you’re always saying goodbye to characters and people and tales. Your stories always have an end, whether you’re happy with them or not.
You always have to move on from any grief you might experience as a result of all that so you can move on to the next thing. You can’t let it slow you down or stop you completely. Creativity just doesn’t work that way.
And neither does the real world. When you say goodbye, you can fall apart, you can try to stop the world from turning, you can take as long as you need to catch your breath. But eventually you do have to put yourself back together, let your world keep turning, breathe not as you stand but as you move.
I’m not great at goodbyes. I think the worst ones are those that happen gradually over time — when a formal “see ya” never really happens but eventually you just lose touch with someone who really mattered to you. It happens when you unintentionally abandon a writing project. It often happens when you lose an old friend.
But the more I write, the more I expose myself to farewells of every kind. When I write a book and the story ends when I finish that last page, there’s nothing more for me to say to or do with those characters. They’re ready to move on, and so am I. And so I say goodbye. I put them on a shelf. I go on to the next thing.
You don’t have to love walking away or train yourself to do so without feeling anything. You just have to learn that goodbyes happen, and you can’t dwell on them forever. Only for a little while.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.