As I reflect today on this year's experience, it seems only fitting to be writing about endings. Endings were my biggest challenge this year. Sometimes the endings flowed naturally. Sometimes I knew how a piece was going to end before I even knew how it would begin. More times than I was comfortable, though, I sat and stared at the computer, wondering what on earth I was going to write to wrap it up. I'd type a sentence, backspace it away, and try something else, which often ended up being erased as well.
One day I was so frustrated, I posted on Facebook, "Looking for an ending. If anyone has any to spare, please send them my way. I've got a deadline!" Several friends and family members offered suggestions, which didn't really help me out with my piece of writing (I never did come up with an ending I liked for that one), but their suggestions lightened my mood and got me thinking.
One friend shared an old standby for elementary students: "And that's my story. I hope you liked it. The End." I laughed when I read it because it was all too true. How many stories had I read with exactly that ending? Whenever I encountered it while I was grading assignments, I would groan out loud and wonder why they wrote such a terrible ending. Weren't they paying attention when I taught them about writing conclusions in class?
Wasn't I payimg attention? Because here I am with 242 published blog posts and I still have trouble occasionally writing a satisfying ending. Why is that?
It's really no great mystery. Each piece of writing is unique. How you conclude a piece depends on so many different variables and those variables change from piece to piece. It's no wonder that students fall back on something they know, something that gets the job done.
For the first time, it occurred to me that as painful as that particular conclusion is, these students at least recognized what a conclusion was and that their piece of writing needed one. More practice and studying how experts do it will give them the opportunity to do better in the future. But, as I can attest, it most likely will always be challenging.
And that is one of the things I love about taking part in this month-long challenge each year. It reminds me just how difficult writing can be. That even experienced writers have bad days and struggle to find the right words to put their thoughts together. Even experienced writers are tempted to slap "The End" to their story just to be finished.
It is this renewed perspective that I bring back to the classroom each year. Knowing that the struggle is real. Knowing that when you care about what you're writing about, you're willing to work harder on it. Knowing that every piece isn't going to be perfect, but there is good to be found in each one. Knowing that endings can be hard, be they in writing or in life, but invariably they lead us to a place where we can begin something new.