A tale of two endings
Is happiness worth the risk?
Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links.
Before we dive in, a quick note: this week’s Relatable Reads are curated by Nisha Chittal, author of one my favorite weekly newsletters and link connoisseur. I’m excited to introduce you to her! And if you found this newsletter via Nisha: hello, welcome, subscribe! ⇩
Beginnings are easy. Endings are where we run into trouble. For example, this past month I decided to take on both Dry January and a 30-day yoga challenge. Setting these intentions took almost no effort, and the first week flew by. However! As the month wore on and obstacles surfaced, I had to work harder to stick to my goals. (The triple whammy of insurrection, impeachment, and inauguration certainly did not help!) But I stayed strong, kept at it, and completed both challenges. An easy beginning, a happy ending.
The same cannot be said for my novel-in-progress.
In the beginning of the draft, when I was developing characters and ramping up conflict, the options were endless and the writing came easy. Now, I’m in the final stretch of my first revision and everything is more complicated. Choices must be made, consequences must be faced, and I need to figure out what kind of ending these characters are hurtling toward.
I recently read two books* that had happy endings, the kind where everything works out and good prevails. I enjoyed them very much in the moment, but looking back there was something off about their final pages. They were too delightful, too neat, their bows tied a little too tight. Which brings us to my current problem.
My book’s elevator pitch is “a novel that explores the absurdities of adulthood, morality, and relationships against the backdrop of late capitalism.” (Can you tell I work in marketing?) In the first draft the ending was mostly happy, or at least hopeful. But as I approach those last pages for a second time, I’m not sure that’s the way to go. There are no happy endings in late capitalism, not for the majority of us. And so I’m feeling drawn to a darker conclusion, a murkier ending. Less of a bow, and more of a knot.
Which is not to say I’m aiming for an unhappy ending. After spending 250 pages with your characters, a reader will be understandably annoyed if everyone up and dies at the end. But they might be just as irritated if everything works out perfectly. An honest ending, in my opinion, falls somewhere in the middle. Good can prevail, but there’s got to be a cost. Our job is to decide what price we’re willing - or able - to pay.
When I figure out mine, I’ll let y’all know.
* I’m wary of spoilers, so if you want to know the names of the books just hit reply and ask!
Snack of the Week
Last January, some friends and I threw a freezer party. We chose recipes beforehand, pitched in for groceries, and then spent a glorious afternoon cooking in bulk. Each household left with a week’s worth of dinners and snacks, and it was super fun AND budget-friendly. One of the best recipes we whipped up were these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Energy Bites, which I made again this past weekend. I love a vegan cheese doodle as much as the next person, but it’s been nice to have a delicious, minimally-processed snack with my afternoon cup of chai. (Also, I recently got a new phone and finally have portrait mode! Hope you’re enjoying my next-level snack photography.)
Nisha’s Relatable Reads
Hi, I'm Nisha, a journalist and director of audience at Vox.com. My newsletter, Nisha's Internet Tote Bag, is a weekly newsletter every Sunday that features curated roundups of good things to read, good things to cook, and essays from me on the way we live now. Thanks Chrissy for having me!
The pandemic has erased entire categories of friendship, The Atlantic. Over the summer, I wondered in my newsletter what would happen to casual friends, and this piece expands on that even further. The pandemic has changed how we socialize - and if we socialize at all, it's within limited bubbles or pods of just our very closest friends and family. But that means we lose all those other friends and social interactions that don't make our "top tier" but were still meaningful and fulfilling: work friends, neighbors, the friends you got dinner with once every six months, friends you saw for certain sports events or hobbies.
Here's what it was really like to work in women's media, Human Parts/Medium. Writer Gabrielle Moss recounts her three years working at a well-known women's website with humor and grace.
Some personal failings in winter lockdown, The New Yorker. I am definitely still too gutless to cut my own bangs.
The vaccinated class, The New York Times. The limited availability of the Covid-19 vaccine is creating a new system of haves and have-nots.
Beginnings and endings get all the glory, but the real magic happens in the long, messy middle. This week, forget how it started and don’t worry about how it’ll end. Appreciate where you are, even if it’s not where you ever expected to be.
Thanks to Sarah K. for helping to make my morning cup of coffee the perfect beginning to every single day.
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