How it starts

We have a curious obsession with endings. We hear a joke and we need the punchline. We read a novel and we want to know if the boy gets the girl, if the butler did it, or if the dragon eats the princess.

But endings aren’t the most important part of a story, because in real life our stories don’t end (until they do but it won’t really matter for us because we’ll be dead). Our lives are like a soap opera, a continuous development with overlapping threads.

No, endings aren’t important. It’s the beginning we should be bothered about.

The boy can’t get the girl unless they meet. They can’t just meet, they need to interact. For a story to be interesting, in an ‘I’d go watch this movie’ way, maybe we need them to argue, fall out, hate each other and then get together. But that’s not how all stories pan out. Life isn’t that dramatic, and doesn’t follow a three act structure. Sometimes a boy meets a girl and they get on and things progress smoothly. Sometimes a boy meets a girl and nothing happens. The same nothing that would have happened if they’d never met. But for something to happen there has to be a beginning. An act. A thought. An event.

When we think about our lives we focus on the ending. Will we be happy together? Will I be good at that job? Will I win the prize? Will people turn up? That’s when the doubt creeps in. What if we aren’t happy? What if I’m not good enough for the job or the people there are horrible? What if I lose? What if only a few people come?

All reasonable questions but if they guide us then we don’t talk to the girl, apply for the job, or enter the competition, or run the workshop. We’ve written the ending without writing the beginning. There is no story without a start.

I have a theory that a movie or novel that is nothing more than starts, with no ends, would be a hit. Rip the last pages out of every book and they’d fly off the shelves. Not just because viewers and readers would be forced to become authors, and to share their ideas with others, but because it would underline that point: there can be no closure without an opening. And we won’t get an answer to our questions until we stop worrying about the answer, or the question, and just start seeing the potential.

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