It’s kind of freaking me out how many things I like are ending in the next two weeks.
There are multiple podcasts I love that are releasing their final episodes by the end of 2019. And possibly the most important movie of the decade is “ending” the Star Wars Skywalker saga the day this post will go live (I will have already seen it by the time you are reading this, and will likely still be a puddle of emotions on the floor of the movie theater).
I have often joked that I don’t always like to finish things because endings are hard and I am no good at goodbyes. But I joke because it’s the truth. Most endings are bittersweet, though some are delightful in certain contexts, while others are wholly devastating in every possible way.
Whether it’s the end of a story or a chapter in your life, a job, a relationship, a trial you never thought you could endure, as much as endings challenge us, there is something magical about walking through a door and listening to it close behind you as you continue on your way.
Endings are a time for reflection. The same way I have watched 40+ years’ worth of Star Wars media in the past three months, an ending is the perfect opportunity to take time leading up to an ending to reflect on everything that has brought you to where you are right now.
Spend some time thinking about how the story you are preparing to say goodbye to has impacted you both in good ways and bad. Think about what it means to you, how it speaks to your life, how it has changed you, and how you want it to change you.
Why is this important? Because we don’t just write or consume stories for the sake of saying we have done it. We are all looking for meaning in everything we experience, even if it seems like nothing more than words on a page at a glance. We are all searching for words that speak to how we feel and who we are and what we wish we could say or can’t adequately put into our own words.
Appreciate the stories that truly mean something to you. And if you dare, make it a point to go on and create stories for others that affect an audience the same way you have been affected. Give back what you have been given.
Just because it’s ending does not mean it’s “over.” The nice thing about reading a book, for example, is that when you reach that final page and finish the story, the book doesn’t just disappear. You are actually, it turns out, free to read and reread that story as many times as you want to.
Similarly, reaching the end of a first draft of something you have written CAN mean you can close the document and never look at it again. But often times, instead, it’s still the start of your journey. A first draft ends, but there is still so much work to be done. There are edits and rewrites. The revision stage of such a big project is, for some creators, the most challenging leg of the race.
Many writers are afraid of saying goodbye to characters and places and events in their stories because they are afraid of these same exact things in their non-fictional lives. But we don’t have to look at something like the end of one story and feel like the whole world is coming down around us. Because in reality, not everything is as certain of a conclusion as we might think.
Really, if you think about it, every ending is really just a break in the flow, another step, another left turn. There are some definite endings in writing and in life, but they always lead to something else. Even when we are grieving loss, we learn from it. We grow from it. And the hope is always that we can build something beautiful from it — if not now, then someday, perhaps.
Don’t be afraid of the final chapter. Every time I can remember the final pages of a book I am writing, I have always noticed that, without meaning to, I pretty much stop breathing. I take in as few breaths as possible and just hold them. Why? Because I am anticipating something that I think I am not ready for, when in fact I am very ready — I just wish I didn’t have to be.
And yet, something positive almost always results from reaching that finish line and moving beyond it. As intimidating as it might be to inch closer and closer to the conclusion you are dreading, you might not even realize — yet — that what is waiting for you beyond it is so much better than you are capable of imagining.
Don’t run away from your endings. And don’t just rush right through them, either. Prepare yourself for them, acknowledge that they are coming and approach them with an open mind and a vulnerable heart. But also remember that every ending precedes a period of reflection, and following that, there is so often a brand new chance to begin something new.
Even if you aren’t the type of person to shout “new year new me” the moment January 1 hits, it’s the perfect time of year to commit to a new project and leave a few tired ones behind — especially if you have trouble letting go of the old in favor of the new. Exercise this muscle. Train yourself not to be so afraid.
And if you can, allow yourself to look forward to the things that are ahead, whether they are things you are in control of choosing or not. There is always something new, something great, even something better around the corner. You just can’t see it yet. You don’t know what it is. But you can believe it’s there all the same.
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.