You’re Never Finished

end-of-the-roadEmma Coat’s Writing Basic #7.

Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

Endings may be hard but writing about it is harder. I’ve already commented in past articles what #7 implies, that indecision leads nowhere. And I’ve noted that the world can be divided into groups, especially those who figure they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it and those like me who gaze down the road scrutinizing the bridges.

Yep. YOUR ENDING IS WHAT YOUR STORY IS ABOUT. How you resolve your theme is your statement about your subject, your privileged point-of-view. If you don’t know your message, you can’t hang anything on it. That’s writing 101. And yet…

It takes two hands for me to count the number of movies I’ve worked on where the creatives weren’t confident about the ending when they starting shooting. And by the time their first cut came to me, a production crew was already in place to reshoot a rewritten ending, sometimes two new endings. Still the films failed, all because Emma’s story basic #7 was buried under scheduling and release issues. The movies had to start before they were ready.

Getting endings to work is important but too many times we start before we’re ready about everything else, even marriage. I’ve been following the blog Secretregrets.com because it microscopically reflects what’s going in this country when it comes to unproductive choices. As I write this article on May 25th, I’m referencing a published admission from an unhappy husband:

I regret saying no to marrying the woman I really loved. And now I know she loved me. I was 24 and she was 22. I am 60 now and she must be 58. For 36 years I have not found a love like ours. I suffer on a daily basis because of this immature, vindictive, selfish choice I made. I’ve looked for her on Long Island, N.Y. where we both grew up but have not found a trace of her. She is a nurse and I am a Nurse Practitioner. I would like to make amends. I need to make amends.

Now I’m getting into sensitive seas here, because there are more dysfunctional marriages than joyful ones. And I don’t want to come off preachy with “I told you so.” But every personal friend whose marriage ended in divorce later said to me,

“Before I got married I had lingering doubts about it. But so much was already in place, I couldn’t stop the train.”

Couples who knowingly choose difficult unions rationalize them with reasons like:

  • He’ll change. I’ll help him.
  • I don’t want my baby to grow up without a father.
  • She wants me so much, she deserves to have me.
  • My needs will be taken care of and besides, he’s a nice person.
  • My parents approve. She comes from a good family.
  • The Lord brought us together.
  • He’s not the man I want but I can’t have everything.
  • My bio clock is ticking away and so are my years.
  • Maybe he’s bi, but he’s kind.
  • I can’t live alone.
  • She’s so hot. Okay, so we don’t talk. I’ve got my buddies for that.
  • I know he’s an addict, but I love him.

I’m no counselor but if any of you engaged folk agree with any part of my list, rethink your priorities! What is it that you REALLY want? Sure, those reasons above might work if your expectations don’t go beyond what your mate can give, but who really wants less than total love and loyalty, even with the bag of bucks?

For those who have already tied the knot, all I can say is, good people make bad choices and if you’re in an unhappy relationship you don’t need me giving you advice, except for four conditions. If it’s abusive, dangerous, controlling or child molestation is involved, GET OUT OF IT NOW!


Excuse me but I’m confessing. I’m breaking #7. I have no idea where this is going. I couldn’t see my ending when I started this post but I hoped I’d figure it out by word 697. I haven’t, like those movies I worked on with no third act.

So I’m going to sleep. Maybe my ending will fly to my mind in the morning.


I’m up. And now I know why I can’t finish this thing. My premise is wrong!

Working out the ending in a book is nothing like locking in an ending for your life. And the reason is, up to death (a disputed finish) no one’s existence has ONE ending. It’s a moving target. Goals, wants and needs change everyday. Which means choices that bring us into bad spaces can be reversed.

Yes. They really can, if we make that happen. Our stories never end. Our characters come and go. Our personal themes spread in ten directions. As the heroes of our saga, we are the most powerful shape changer of all, as long as we don’t lock ourselves into one resolution. We’ve gotta stay flexible and ready to change, ‘cause if things don’t work out, if we’re wrong, if we’ve burned bridges, if the internet crashes, we’ll feel like authors without happy endings, or no endings at all. bridge_in_flames

Then we’ll get mad and frustrated and start feeling controlled and resentful and look for reasons why we’re losing and find enemies to blame it all on.

Or what happened to me could happen to you. I fixed my goals so specifically that anything that didn’t exactly match them wasn’t good enough, which meant, on my own terms, I wasn’t good enough. That made me unhappy for a long time.

My friends advised, “So downgrade your expectations to match your accomplishments.”

Nope, that wasn’t the answer either. That’s like writing a plot-driven script where you’re expected to have five action scenes and four love scenes and so you insert your characters into them but nothing about it is real.

So I didn’t reinvent my self perception to match past events. Instead, I revisited the most cliché advice in the book:

It’s not your score that counts, it’s your journey along the way. (This does not apply to anyone who gets paid to win.)

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. (I’m not Yogi Berra and you’re not either.)

If you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Yeah, we all know these wisdoms. And we also know life is more complicated than simple sayings. We all know unhappy marriages aren’t easily dissolved. We all know that nobody sets out to make a bad decision like no one plans to make a bad movie.

Most importantly though, deep down we all understand (as we pretend it isn’t so) that there will always be another movie and there’s always room for mid-course corrections – physically and mentally.

BINGO! Now it’s clear. Life is about THE CORRECTIONS — the plot points, the unexpected events and the admirable fixes we design to deal with those hurdles. All of those victories forge happy endings. And as long as we’re alive they won’t stop coming.

So I guess in a more complicated way, my premise still holds true: YOUR ENDING IS WHAT YOUR STORY IS ABOUT.

That’s true in literature. With your life however, you’re not just one story. You’re many. And you’re never finished…until it’s over (again, disputed).


Originally published on Curiosityquills.com.



  1. David W says:

    Beautifully put sir. You nailed it.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Thanks for your comment, Dave. Didn’t know you were still following this weblog.


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