The last step is starting over
It's a cycle, but it doesn't have to be vicious!
Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links.
Earlier this week, I woke up and decided not to work on my novel. This was a big deal. I’d written or revised every single day since the end of January, and there are few things I love more than a good streak.
Then I reached the last chapter, and realized I still wasn’t sure how to wrap things up. A few weeks ago I wrote about endings and why I might abandon the happy one I’d originally written for something a bit darker, a little more murky. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure this is the right choice, but when the time finally arrived, I wasn’t ready. I needed to dig deeper, add a few more messes, and get a better sense of some characters before I could truly know their fate. To find the right ending, I needed to go back to the beginning and start draft three. But first, I needed a break.
A good ending can’t be rushed. It’s the last thing a reader experiences before closing your book, their final moments with the characters you’ve called into being. As a reader, I’ve dreaded a beloved book’s dwindling page count, slowed down so I could stay in the story. As a writer, I know that even the best books have to end. More importantly, they have to end at the right time.
Recently, my husband and I watched Search Party. The first three seasons were perfect and we raced through them. Then we started season four, and disappointment quickly replaced our delight. It’s fine, but not brilliant. You can tell the plot got away from the writers, that they couldn’t bring themselves to say goodbye. When a conclusion is drawn out or timed wrong, when it ends too early or too late, the whole thing suffers. Any previous perfection is marred.
At this point, a better newsletter would dive into a list of surefire tips and tricks for writing the perfect ending, but I’m still stuck in the middle. The only advice I can offer is to be patient. Everything ends eventually. You’ll find the right place when you reach it.
Speaking of imperfect endings, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another one that inches closer: the pandemic. Many people I know have been vaccinated; I got my first dose yesterday! (In North Carolina, you can sign up for a leftovers list at certain clinics and pharmacies, and I snagged an orphaned dose in a smaller city an hour away.) Needless to say, this is one ending I’m ready for. If I could skip ahead to the acknowledgements, I would! But I’m not the author of this pandemic, and I can’t control when or how it ends. Once again, it all comes down to patience.
Okay, I lied: I do have some advice about endings. They don’t have to be happy or neat, but they must contain some kind of transformation, a moment of change. The characters should be different than they were when the story started. In a way, the best endings are actually beginnings in disguise.
And so, as we continue turning the pages of this pandemic, let’s make a promise: no matter what happens on the last page, we won’t go back to the beginning. Instead, we’ll pick up a new book. Next time, we’ll tell a better story.
Snack of the Week
In my last issue, I promised to use my new bundt pan to bake something delicious. Reader, I did! This is a vegan Orange Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake, and the recipe comes from I Can Cook Vegan, the latest book from my personal hero Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I’ve been a vegetarian for over twenty years, but it wasn’t until I discovered Isa in the mid-aughts that I actually figured out what to do with a block of tofu. Her new cookbook is very “back to basics” which is fitting, as starting over appears to be this week’s theme. I love when that happens.
There’s No Real Reason to Eat Three Meals a Day, The Atlantic. The author of this piece advocates eating one Big Meal and a bunch of smaller ones. I prefer six or seven medium meals. Neither us are wrong! (Though my method is a bit more time consuming.) 🍔
From Atlas To Luna, Here’s How The Pandemic Has Changed Baby Names, Refinery 29. Not ashamed to say I love most of these names and have filed many of them away for future dogs. 🐶
What Really Happened at ‘Reply All’?, New York Times. I don’t listen to a ton of podcasts, but I love Reply All. This deep dive into the recent controversy around workplace racism, anti-union efforts, and a four-part series gone wrong is the deep dive I needed. The quote that stuck out for me: “It’s like they thought that they could do diversity without actually doing the work that diversity requires.” 🎧
I’m a Short Afternoon Walk and You’re Putting Way Too Much Pressure On Me, McSweeney’s. R.E.L.A.T.A.B.L.E. 😭
Did you remember to turn the clocks forward before you went to bed last night? I know a lot of people (parents, mostly) dread Daylight Saving Time. This week, instead of focusing on the hour lost, appreciate the light we’ve gained.
Starred ⭐️ Review
Big thanks to Ariel R. and Lindsey S. for kicking off my day with a cup of coffee, a key element of any good beginning.
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