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How Do You End Things Well?
This Week In Writing, we talk about how it’s really hard to stick the landing when ending something and follow up on last week’s ennui discussion.
Succession and Ted Lasso ended last week. Both had a distinct impact on culture and were met with intense anticipation despite relatively small audiences. Don't worry, there aren't any real spoilers in this article.
I enjoyed both endings for different reasons. Succession brought a sense of closure, of catharsis, if you will. It proved that evil corporations will always be evil no matter what. Ted Lasso, on the other hand, proved happy endings are still possible. Granted, I bawled my eyes out through most of it and loved every stinking moment.
However, endings are divisive. While I enjoyed the finales, you might have different opinions. Thanks to the internet, there's a ton of stuff out there proving why both endings were horrible. Say what you want, but I'm not really here to talk about Succession or Ted Lasso. Instead, I want to look at endings as a whole.
It's really hard to stick the landing when ending something that's played out over many years. Take Seinfeld. I loved the parade of cameos and callbacks, but it's regarded as a terrible ending. People loved the end of How I Met Your Mother, but I thought the writing was sloppy and rushed. Let's not even get into the finale of LOST.
Proving how divisive endings can be, last year's Variety list of the worst TV endings has a lot of crossover with The Ringer's recent list of the best TV finales. While these kinds of pieces are fun to read through and remember how some of our favorite things ended, it's also a testament to the writers who managed to take years of material and build up and still managed to bring meaningful and memorable closure. Or at least closure that people still talk about years later.
Ending is hard. Whether you're completing a TV or book series, a long-running column, or a newsletter -- it's hard to write successful closure for creators and fans alike. And don't read anything into this; I'm not planning on stopping this newsletter anytime soon.
Ending something well takes serious effort and requires making decisions you know not everyone will appreciate. But, in a sense, that's what creating anything requires. It requires the writers to make choices which can often be difficult.
No one really knows why George RR Martin hasn't ended the Song of Ice and Fire series yet. Supposedly it's still being written, but there's speculation that he's written himself into a corner and can't make potentially divisive choices for his characters. Without making choices, it's impossible to end. After nearly fifteen years without a new book, if the series does end, will it still have the popularity it once did?
I want the endings I experience to be satisfying and justified. When characters drastically change seemingly overnight, even though you know it's coming, it's not satisfying. It's unjustified when a character is doomed to a predetermined storyline regardless of years of choices and growth. A satisfying and justified ending brings closure. It's a way to walk away happy, even if things didn't end the way I wanted them to.
Knowing when it's time to throw in the towel is just as important as creating a quality ending. It's easy to let something run too long until it fades into obscurity. When that happens, it makes it really difficult for endings to be satisfying.
Whether you're the writer or the entertained, ending something is hard. Yet, when artists create anything, they're doing so to make people feel something. Sometimes those feelings lead to applause and accolade, and sometimes it stirs up internet petitions. Either way, it caused a reaction and made people think and engage. Good or bad, it ultimately doesn't matter -- when people feel something, the writer did their job. That’s the sign of a good ending.
What do you look for in a good ending? Or, how do you approach writing a solid ending?
Update on Ennui
Last week I talked about writing ennui. SO MANY of you responded, and as I read and responded to your comments, I realized something: I had gotten away from why I was writing in the first place. The irony of irony is that there's an entire chapter in my book about determining why you write and living into that. It hit me reading your comments that I've been very vocal about writing to connect with others. Last week's article realigned me with that purpose.
My purpose for journaling is different. I'm obviously not writing to create a conversation in my journal. My reason for journaling used to be a way to practice my writing and grow. Now? I'm not sure what the intention is, and that's why I've been so slow to return to the process. I'll figure out what that intention is and how it fits into my life.
But thank you to everyone who engages and comments each week. You're the fuel to keep me writing. Thank you for helping me remember that!
Let's Talk Vision Pro
Yesterday Apple announced the Vision Pro, a $3,499 headset computer coming out sometime next year. Just like with TV show endings, you can find a lot of commentary about how amazing or ridiculous the device is. That's not what I want to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about the future Apple envisions with, well, the Vision Pro.
When it comes to Apple products, the first few versions are almost always too expensive, too restricted, and too controversial. The first iPhone was this way. So was the Apple Watch. The first version of Vision Pro is bound to be marked as the same thing. However, as much as Apple is a hardware company, what makes everything excel is its uncompromising software.
Yesterday's Vision Pro announcement sold a, well, vision of the future of computing -- one where augmented reality allows access to infinite windows just inside your line of sight -- or, well, vision. While the demonstrations showed finger gestures and hand movements to control the OS, I am very interested in seeing how this technology evolves over the next few years.
A much more comfortable and powerful version of the Vision Pro will complement every creator's toolkit in a few years. It also makes me think that dictating will become a more common form of writing. I know plenty of writers have been dictating for years, but I imagine the future of augmented reality computing will make it ubiquitous.
Like with AI tools, science fiction is becoming reality, and writers shouldn't be caught off guard. While I don't recommend everyone picks up a Vision Pro when it goes on sale next year, it's worth observing where Apple is moving and what it means for your workflows. Because, like it or not, Apple sets the tone for all personal computing. Are they first to market? No. But what they do sets trends, and Vision Pro is a, well, vision of computing's future.
Ok, enough puns. What do you think?