it was in the dark room of a comedy club, near the bottom of my second drink of the two-drink minimum, that i heard one of the most poignant and true takes on endings i've ever heard. the comedian was talking about how many children she had, concluding:
children are like shots. you don't know how many is enough until you've had one too many.
you know that feeling. that last martini did it, i've said too many times. that extra indulgence that left you feeling like you should have just stopped while you were still feeling good.
i've thought about that sentiment a lot since that evening. the idea that you don't know when something is over until it's so far done, so beyond over that you realize it should have ended long before. sure, it's true with drinks. and though i haven't hit this point [perhaps a sign i should stop], maybe it's true with children. but it's also true with arguments, when you don't stop until you've said that one, awful, hurtful thing you can never take back. with vacations, when you realize it's time to go home after that one rough day. with relationships.
it was a year ago today that i realized the same thing was true with writing. i'd been struggling to finish my book for a few days, putting the ending off. i didn't know how to wrap it up. i knew the end to the book, but wasn't sure of the specifics. i put so much weight on that final sentence, on how i wanted to leave my readers feeling, the imagery i wanted to create, that final emotion evoked before the back flap was closed. and then, on an afternoon exactly a year ago today, i figured it out. i was beating the proverbial dead horse. the book had already ended, and i was drawing it out. so i went back and deleted the last two chapters, and left it at that. with that swift tap of my delete key, the book was finished. i didn't worry about the final sentence, the final word. the end result, in my opinion, is the feeling of wanting to turn the page. of wanting more. but also one of finality, of just the right amount of a good thing, of knowing when to stop.
i could have written that book forever. i had a first draft, a second draft, a third draft, and then a fourth that was [hopefully] typo-free. i could have written another. and i could have asked for input from editors and mentors, beta-readers and friends. i could have kept revising and revising and trying to write the perfect book. i could have kept, essentially, asking for permission to end the book. to get that validation that it was complete, that it was flawless, that it was pure. it would have taken years. and it most likely never would have actually made it to the stage of a physical book that i could hold in my hand, slide on my shelf and say, 'i did that.' but somewhere along the way, i gave myself permission to finish the book. to not tell the perfect story, but the story i was capable of telling. my story.
this is not always the case in life. there have been many instances of going too far, of overindulging, of not knowing when to stop. i'm hoping it's one of those lessons i learn with age. that what i have to say is enough, that i have the right to say it, and that the most important thing in my writing is that it satisfies something inside me, and not necessarily every other person who may touch it.
but i do hope it touches you. i hope you find it helps you with an ending you might be pondering, or in the middle of. because in so many ways, the book is about endings, and the beginnings that often come from them.