What does it mean to end a piece of writing? How do you find a balance between crafting too neat of an ending and one filled with too many loose ends?
I’ve seen a handful of posts commenting on these very questions. Considering the ways in which my writing style and approach to crafting a narrative has shifted throughout the last four years, my perspective on “writing an ending” has been one of the more noticeable shifts. Specifically, my conclusions have shifted from being succinct statements no longer than a paragraph and tied up with a bow, to more open-ended considerations, putting the preceding content into perspective while still encouraging the reader to consider it further.
I don’t necessarily think one approach is better than the other. In my class, ‘Persuasion & Campaigns,’ for example, I learned that explicit conclusions are generally more persuasive than implicit conclusions. I also know that, if my social science research papers went without a clear conclusion, the world may explode. I do, however, think I have become more open to more interpretive endings with each and every writing assignment. More than just a shift in writing choices, however, this change also indicates a greater, more meaningful shift in my attitude toward writing in general.
For example, here is a look at one of the first papers I wrote for college, written in, no surprise, English 125. In this essay, I argued how my tendency to embrace the imaginative as a child sometimes made me feel out-of-place at school, yet instilled in me the values that I still hold today. Here is how I concluded my paper:
I admit I may have had a harder time grasping the concept of reality than other children at one point in my life. Yet the make-believe I once clung to has instilled in me a hope to make a positive change in the world around me. I realize it is important to be aware of the world in which one lives, but my childhood has taught me that sometimes it is more beneficial to have your head floating up in the clouds.
Comforting? Absolutely. Cliche? You know it.
Thought provoking? Not particularly.
And that brings me to my last paper crafted for English 325, written last semester. I wrote about my own perfectionist tendencies, the transient nature of college life, and the complications it has fostered. The essay was in response to a prompt grappling with the application of theoretical concepts in our daily life. These are my last few sentences:
I doubt that my perfectionist tendencies will disappear with a single revelation and the acknowledgment of transience itself. My college experience, after all, hasn’t seen its final bookend. And just as college is inherently transient, I imagine life won’t be much different. Anxieties, worries, and feelings of despair may never quite disappear completely as long as transience is present. Although these feelings may never cease, to know productivity is happening, even in the absence of perfection, is to realize the meaninglessness of defeat.
And, if fears of defeat no longer resonate, creating an absence of uncertainty and distress at the possibility of failure, then maybe perfection becomes irrelevant altogether.
With this conclusion, I hoped the reader would continue to think about the topic, even after the conclusion. I found that, while any paper can prove resonant for the reader, actively providing such an opportunity may yield a greater likelihood to leave a lasting impression.
As I near the end of my capstone project, I consider what kind of thoughts I want the reader to take with them. I want to clearly and concisely define my argument, while still encouraging the reader to consider how information overload plays a role in their own life, what they may be doing to facilitate the consequences of such overload, and how they can approach information consumption going forward. While this requires a bit of understanding of the issue itself, it also needs a certain determination to re-consider their own media and news consumption habits. Such determination only comes with a carefully-crafted conclusion, leaving the last words resonating in the reader’s mind.