My last full-time job was in behaviour management. The mainstay of my job was ferreting out truanting students. Yeah, I was the one who caught you wagging class. I’d sit at my desk in the Withdrawal Room, with the students kicked out of class for misbehaving and a pile of forms with the names of absent students in front of me. I’d cross-match the class absences against all day absences and anything else happening (camp, excursions etc).
It was a mind-numbingly boring process of elimination and if I didn’t stay on top of the paperwork, it quickly got out of control (think 800 students, 50 plus teachers, across 8 periods a day, five days week). Given I had no control over what happened with students in class or across the school on any day, it only took one ‘event’ to blow my day out of the water and for two days worth of absenteeism to await me the following day.
What’s this got to do with writing?
The job ground my soul to dust. It did so because I never had a sense of completion, only a very temporary daily reprieve on good days (the sort that reminds me of the mindless roundabout of housework!) and on a bad day, an impending sense of doom, of going under.
This is what happens when you live without discrete, concrete endings; without a sense of achieving something.
Force the Reset
When my truant workload blew out, when more than a week’s worth of absentee paperwork sat on my desk, I’d grab my friend Ingrid, who taught science, and we’d go out for a ceremonial purging. The two of us would haul the stack of paper out into the desert that is a high school car park at 4pm on Friday. We’d drop all the paper work into the industrial hopper. The lid always fell with a satisfying crash. While not the ending the administration would have applauded me for, it meant Monday my desk was clean to start over… until it got out of hand again.
Why Endings are Important
Being caught in an endless warp, of expending energy, for no real gain, is a slow insidious destruction of self, dreams, motivation, creativity and momentum. This is why we need endings in our lives; the more the merrier. We need a sense of completion, to give our endeavours, whatever they may be, sense and purpose.
- Endings evoke new beginnings; they clear the space (whether it be physical, mental or metaphorical) for new ideas to spawn and put down roots.
- Endings invest in our confidence; they become the derring-do underwriting the next story/novel/poem/script/song/creative dream.
- Endings are the line in the sand to put ourself and our work ‘out there’; no one is reading/commenting/engaging with our work while it languishes on the hard drive.
- Endings build momentum; there is nothing like the high of completing something to spur you on to the next big thing.
- Endings mark transitions; in doing this they highlight growth, development and evolution from one creative project to another, one year to the next and beyond.
Finding Closure With Celebration
Most importantly, endings are an opportunity to celebrate.
Celebrations allow something temporary, something that makes us feel good, something we can share with others, to fill the void left by completion. A holding circle until something new is ready to take up residence. A celebration is a way to say thank you to the people who have supported us through the trials and tribulation of our most recent work
I’ve learned the necessity of celebration the hard way.
In the past, the end of each project and the submission of every story was accompanied by shadows and the yowling call of another bout of depression. I recognised the pattern. I’d come to anticipate it, saw it as part of what it means to bring an end to a creative endeavour.
Only recently I worked out a celebration holds off the crushing darkness that comes looking for me at the end. A simple Japanese dinner and a toast after the launch of Deck the Halls allowed me to enjoy the end, rather than fear it. It meant could I step away with a spring rather than a tumble. If only I’d realised this sooner, I’d have avoided a lot of angst and festering darkness.
Celebrations offer authentic closure, permission to let go and move on. A way to set down softly, rather than crash-land.
A Need, Not a Want
An ending is a call to arms. They keep us from soul-destroying roundabouts just waiting for us to hop on and never get off. They offer a chance to celebrate. Reflect on achievements large and small. Give us a chance to thank those who have supported and encouraged us.
They are also an impetus to start again. Renew our belief in ourselves. Regenerate. Set new intentions. Begin without baggage.
Endings are the much-needed reset we all need in our lives, creative or otherwise.
What was the last creative endeavour you brought to a close? Did you celebrate its conclusion, and if you did how? If not how might you celebrate the next big ending?