Back in 1988 an image jumped into my mind, and I jumped up from whatever it was that I was doing, and I wrote it down:
It’s hard to believe that the brilliant bands of light that sweep across the night sky haven’t always been there. Great poets have written wonderful romantic songs through the years about the effect those gleaming streaks have on hearts young and old — so many songs in so many years that we must be reminded from time to time that, before the imaginary bomb, there were no rings around the Earth.
I had begun foundering around with an idea for a novel called The Imaginary Bomb, but until I wrote that paragraph I didn’t know where to go with it. But now I had an ending — a destination, if you will — and all I had to do was take aim and write the novel that preceded it. Sure enough the story was essentially completed a few weeks later. (Why it then took 20 years to publish is a whole nuther story.)
I tell this anecdote because over the weekend, I wrote the end to The Imaginary Revolution, a story that has been on my mind for about four years or so and which I’ve started and stopped several times but foundered. I even started podcasting the early chapters of the first version in hopes it would motivate me to plow ahead. But still I foundered; I generally knew the whole story but, I now realize, I had no ending, no destination.
I did have a file in my I-Rev folder called “the last chapter,” because based on that earlier experience, I suspected I needed the ending first. But I had a lot of files in my I-Rev folder, including several versions of the opening chapters. I looked through those files over the weekend.
And I realized Sunday morning how the last chapter needs to end. Wow.
It was like, err, a scream of consciousness. Now I can’t wait to go back and fill in everything that happens before the end.
There’s nothing that energizes any project more than having a goal, a destination. Otherwise it’s just a lot of foundering about. Life being a foundering kind of exercise, it’s easy to forget that simple fact.
Where do you think you’re going?