September 1, 2014

Writers are Full of Sh*t: A Guide to Seeing Past the Perfect Ending. ~ Sarah Harvey

not for reuse

When we put pen to paper, it’s a little too easy for our ideas to come across with an incredibly intense air of finality.

I’m guilty of this, too.

After all, we are creating a work of art with our words, and it can simply seem “better” to wrap it all up with a tidy bow. We don’t want to leave any loose ends dangling messily off to the side. We want carefully folded creases and flawlessly furled ribbon (in matching shades, of course).

But, writing from this perspective can also give the impression that life is parsed into impeccably formed paragraphs. That life can have a perfectly pulled together beginning, middle and end. That life can be carefully arranged and tirelessly edited, the way an article can.

Yeah, our at-times exhausting existence doesn’t exactly work like that.

But, it is this messy, chaotic and beautiful truth that is so often absent in writing. Even when reading about people’s spiritual transformations (mine included), it can seem like folks suddenly change and that their lives are, from that day on, idyllic and without any struggle. Obviously, that can’t be true. But, it’s so tempting to think that is how it should be, for us too. That we are missing some big secret.

This is what I want to know:

What happens after that beautiful ending?

Life doesn’t just stop there.

I wish it did, sometimes.

Honestly, maybe part of why the medium itself appeals to us so much is that we can pretend that everything can actually get “all figured out.” For a rare moment, we are completely in control. Sometimes, there’s no better feeling than arranging an article with painstaking tidiness. It gives us the illusion that we are somehow done with that thing, that chapter. That we don’t ever have to think about it again.

It feels so damn satisfying because this is almost never the case in life. There is no such thing as “all figured out.” This crazy existence is chaotic, tumultuous, messy and endlessly changing. We often have to re-open old chapters to see them in a new light.

So, don’t we owe our readers something more honest? Don’t we owe them the messy truth, minus the tidy bows?

Maybe it’s time for us to step down and open ourselves in a new way.

Perhaps in doing so, we will see that after we’ve written or created something, it’s “case closed” for us too. The topic is no longer open for exploration, clarification or further investigation.

I’ll be honest: I would love for that to be the case.

But, life is so damn dynamic. The conclusions we’ve come to today may not apply tomorrow, and we need to remember to leave that openness in our writing. Nothing is nailed down. And more importantly, we need to remember to leave room for that openness in ourselves.

As a great teacher once said to me: “Once you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it.” It’s so annoyingly true.

So, I’ll stop here. Even though I’m squirming and want to tie everything together.

I’ll stop because there is no perfect ending. I’ll stop in the hopes that it will inspire us all to leave things more open-ended. To have fewer expectations of the way things “should be” and try our very best to embrace this buzzing ball of chaos we call life.



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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Used with Permission from Rachel Gorman

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