You’ve probably heard the mantra, “Begin with the end in mind.” It’s become so cliche, that it’s almost lost its value. We say it, but do mean it? I’ve been thinking about this phrase lately and what it really means to me.
As an author, endings are everything to me. At a recent book signing, I was having a short discussion with a fellow author. We were sharing how we plan out the endings of our books at the start, way before much of the main plot is fleshed out. I go so far as to write the concluding chapter or chapters very early in the writing process. Those final images are so vivid in my head that they demand to be put on paper. Then everything in the story leads to that ending.
I’ve heard other authors lament that they’re not sure how to end a particular book. I am no help to them in these cases whatsoever. How can you even start writing a book if you don’t know how it’s going to end? I’m not trying to disrespect my fellow authors, I honestly just don’t understand. By having the ending in mind, I know how to focus and drive the story, with everything building up to the final chapters. It’s where I, as the author, have determined to take you on this particular reading journey.
Life, I’ve found, is much like my writing. If I don’t have an end in mind, then where the journey goes doesn’t much matter. I’m a religious person, so my end goal is a life righteously lived with no unresolved regrets. That ending drives and focuses my behavior. For example, if I’m rude to someone, I make a point to apologize and fix it. And I try to never be rude in the first place. Just like a novel, there are bumps along my path – some of my own making and some not. But to get to where I want to be, I find a way to make it through and over those bumps.
Turning again to books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland says it well when Alice meets the Cheshire cat:
“Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
Enough said. Your thoughts?