The trouble with writing is endings. Not the actual thinking of them and the ramifications they might have or even planning them; not the finding of them, whether they are dwelling deep in the recesses of the mind or stuffed casually down the back of the sofa or considering how they might be succinctly crafted. Not wondering about how they will complete a story to the satisfaction of the reader and whether they will tie up the loose ends and threads that have been woven, or leave them wanting more; and not worrying about whether the signposts that you have left had the story finished by the middle of the book or had left too many doors wide open and gaping with questions.
No, the trouble with writing – the trouble with endings – is that, as an author, one already knows what the ending will be, whether that knowledge is packed with the most minute of detail, or merely be a faint outline, a sketch to be (or, indeed, not to be) filled in and fleshed out at a later date. This mere knowledge, this hint of understanding, not matter how the writer may fight to keep it hidden or at least disguised from recognition, means that, for them at least, the story is no longer a story; no longer a tale to unpick or a fantasy in which to lose oneself. The story has lost the appeal that it may once have held, the appeal forged within the inventive mind as in ran through a succession of thoughts and ideas until it began to forge them into one long, continual construct. Now the story has changed. It has changed from a collection of ramblings, of both connected and disparate ideas, into a series of events which hold a meaning, at least for the author. If these ideas, these phrases and have formed sentences, had managed to escape their confines, the cage in which they had found themselves trapped, and spilled out onto the streets, they would have become lost and forgotten. Racing freely through the cities, towns and countryside, weaving their way in and out of houses, shops and pubs, they would have, perhaps, rested for a moment in the minds or on the lips of others before disappearing once more to be forgotten before the next sentence in a conversation could begin. Without their companions, their comrades in storytelling, their meaning would be lost, gone for ever, lost even to the writer to whom they had first made themselves known.
But this is nothing more than a theory, a fear lurking in the back of the author’s mind, like the monster of childhood which hid beneath the bed, always invisible, yet always there; always waiting for the one perfect moment that it needed in which to pounce and to devour its victim. Nothing more than an irrational fear then, kept at bay by the author as they guard each word as if their life depended on them as theirs did upon the author, nurturing them like children they are afraid to expose to the cruelties and vagaries of the world. The author watches, their eyes always turned inward, as each thought begins to grow and find its place first within the author’s brain and then with their mind. The writer observes them as they begin to dance around one another searching for a foothold, constantly seeking to establish themselves. Some the author sees, as they studies them, trying to force themselves upon the writer’s thoughts, hoping to make themselves indispensable to their thinking, an integral part of the story which is starting to grow within them. Others wait – the patient ones of the cohort – some for the moment in which to make themselves known, whilst others seem content to bide their time certain, perhaps, that will, in time, be seen. Yet more drift from view either shelved by the writer or discarded to lay slowly decomposing with so many thoughts that had come before.
Gradually friendships become formed, words developing into phrases and then sentences. Some are clearly happy bedfellows, others adopt a more professional and even detached relationship, working effectively with one another but each one understanding that theirs is a connection which exists only within the confines of the story – gestalt; there only for the greater good.
After a while, this network of sentences, paragraphs and chapters begins to gain an awareness of itself and its purpose. It begins to understand that it has a goal which it must, at all costs, reach; a goal upon which the lives of the very characters it has given birth to depend. And so it ploughs on, moving constantly forwards, blind to its destination, but blind too in its determination to reach it. And yet, as each sentence builds upon its predecessor and breathes life into the story, it retains an awareness, a nagging feeling that, somewhere someone can see the full picture as if there were a figure standing on some distance mountain surveying, judging all that could be seen. The story grows, begins to get legs, and stretches them out like a would-be toddler trying to find its feet for the first time. It looks down, gingerly, knowing that the peculiar shapes which protrude from the end of its limbs must have another purpose, then reaches out to haul itself skyward. Now the fledgling story feels, for the first time, its independence – the towering figure of its adult hovering in the distance is already becoming something from which it will free itself, given time – and yet the nagging feeling remains. The feeling that the adult is still watching over it, encouraging, supporting certainly, but still, ultimately, in control. And so the story slumps once more to the floor. It knows that it will rise repeatedly as it seeks to move away from its creator, but is aware too that, without any clear goal, and with no obvious finishing line at which to aim, it will remain, ever reliant upon its author.
The trouble with writing, then, is endings. The author knows, understands implicitly, that, when the ending arrives, their story will finally break free of its shackles. It will find its freedom and its place within the world, be that as a much-loved treasure, a work of literary genius or lost at the back of a dusty shelf. Its eventual resting place is, in many ways, of little consequence to either the author or, indeed, the story itself. In the mind of the story it has achieved its goal – its independence, its chance to stand on its own two feet. For the author they too have achieved what they set out to achieve – to bring life to their story and to set it out into the world, but each story that leaves them is akin to a small death, stripping the author of ideas that they know they can never form again, that will never mean as much to them as they did when they first began to grow inside their head.
Of course, whilst the story itself is blissfully (or painfully) aware of its own limitations in understanding its direction or destination, the author is only to aware of what is to come. From the moment the first words hit the page the final ones are already forming in the mind of the author, along with a growing sense of dread and disappointment. All children will, at some point, leave their parents, but their point of departure can never be foreseen and, assuming all parties are amenable, a return is always possible. For the author and their story such separation begins with the commitment of the first word. As the story’s conclusion shows itself in the mind of the author, so the initial joy and pleasure that they had garnered vanishes, replaced by disillusionment and sorrow, and yet, once life has been breathed into the words, it is a course that they are unable to alter. And so, a second word follows the first, and second sentence complements is predecessor, paragraph builds upon paragraph until the inevitable conclusion is reached.