According to @UberFacts, J.K. Rowling wrote the final chapter of the Harry Potter series nine years before the first book was released. Who am I to question the validity of almighty @UberFacts, but, if it is actually true, we can learn a lot from that kind of creative process.
Starting with the ending seems really counter-intuitive, especially when it comes to a writing a novel. How are you supposed to know what your characters are going to say in the final moments of such an epic series? How do you know their voice? Their attitude? Their personality? Their evolution? How do you know the story you’ve yet to write will actually end there?
That’s the beauty of it; it has to.
If you begin with the end in mind, everything you write will be filtered through that lens. If you want to get your protagonist to this climatic ending where he or she can end on a mountain top experience leaving your reader satisfied having stuck with you that long, you have to craft every scene to move them towards that point. Yes, Tolkien famously said “All who wander are not lost,” but when it comes to fiction, leading your readers through aimless chapters leads straight to boredom and disinterest.
But, isn’t that the same in real life?
Have you ever met someone with a dream for their life? I’m not talking about “I want to be a doctor… teacher… pastor… baseball player… author… etc. when I grow up!” I’m talking about someone with a clear vision that informs every important decision they have to make, from what college they attend to what internships they apply for to what kind of person they date to the organizations they volunteer at. It seems like every single area of their life is always pointing back to one thing: the thing they want to achieve the most. And everything they do the see as an opportunity to move them in that direction.
They live with the end in mind.
They sacrifice the present for the future. They forgo the “here and now” for the “what can be.” They have glimpsed the last chapter and are doing everything they can to edit their story to end up there.
They know how they want their story to end and do everything in their power to make it happen.
Some might think that makes life too structured and boring because you know how everything is going to happen. I would argue the exact opposite. If you live your life with the end in mind, the adventure is not something you are trying to find, rather it becomes the life you lead. Each curveball life throws become a plot twist for the next chapter begging you to keep moving to see how its all going to turn out in the end.
Therefore, if you have the final chapter written, the journey becomes more of an adventure to be had and less of an unknown future to be determined.
Maybe if we lived with what we wanted our final chapter to say, we could live more courageously at the end of today.