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At the Beginning

line At the Beginning

Where better to begin than at the end?

Maybe it seems like cheating, to know the end at the beginning. That would be the case if we were like King of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, who said to the White Rabbit, “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

I have in mind, however, an ending more in line with one of Stephen Covey’s habits — Habit #2, in fact, “Begin with the end in mind.” As Covey writes, all things are created twice: first in the mind, and then in the world. It is a little outside his meaning, but: I am at the end of one thing, although that thing turns out to be the beginning of something else.

You see, I’ve finished my novel. The thing about finishing a novel, however, is that it’s less a thing than a state of mind. I don’t meant that the novel itself is unreal. In fact, it exists both on my various computers and as a stack of more than 200 letter-size sheets of bright white paper. Especially in the paper form, the novel looks rather finished, at least in the sense of being neatly printed and with few spelling errors. It would be, in other words, complete if I had for some reason written this novel for a high school assignment.

However, in the world outside of something like high school — what in high school we referred to as “the real world,” a description that is not nearly so concrete as it seemed at the time — this is what I’ve finished my novel means in reality:

I have finished a sh—y first draft of my novel.

Or, perhaps:

I have flogged the stumbling ruins of my novel across the finish line, gasping and spent.

My novel is far from finished, in other words. And yet here I am, at a milestone.

And where better to begin than at a milestone?