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[Adam Phillips] Heading toward the end

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As some of you are aware, I started writing and posting Crosscurrents in the spring of 2003. It's been a long, strange trip, and that trip has almost reached its end.


Over the years, my work on the story has been glacially slow. I imagine there may be a hundred or more readers who started reading and ultimately bailed because I have been so terribly slow at getting it written.


As you'd expect of a person over a decade's time, I've been through some changes. Above all else, my life situation has resolved in ways I couldn't have predicted at the time I began the story. One of the major facets of my life reached a sort of final resolution in 2007, and that left me with something of a dilemma regarding how to conclude the story. I don't make a secret out of the fact that CC is essentially autobiography, and the future I was looking at in 2003 was hazy and indistinct. By 2007 it had resolved, and resolved in ways that presented me with a dilemma for the story that I couldn't have foreseen in 2003.


CC opens in 2003, really, with the narrator reflecting back on his experiences from childhood up to the present. That means that I have to conclude the piece in a way that doesn't go beyond where it started. And it's been a challenge to figure out how to do that in a narratively satisfactory way while remaining faithful to my own authorial intentions. I'm mindful of the requirements of good storytelling...and I'm also aware that life doesn't really imitate art, and that good art doesn't simply lift a slice of life out of the whole and lay it out for inspection. But from the standpoint of story, the place where I began the story doesn't give me a very solid place to end. There's so much simmering in the relationship between Matt and Andy still, and Andy's situation in the spring of 2003 is not the situation of a guy at the end of a story. But I painted myself into a corner from the very beginning with the Prologue. The writing itself demands that Andy end the reflections on his life at the place--and mindset--from which he began them. So, from a literary standpoint, there needs to be an epilogue that brings us back to Andy's final spring break of his college days, as he sums up his thoughts and feelings on everything he's just remembered.


The epilogue won't be hard to write. The chapter that comes before it--which will, naturally, be the last one to advance the narrative--has been bugging the s**t out of me. Because I didn't know how to make it read like the conclusion of a novel.


Novels don't have to end with "happily ever after" or "the heroes die and everyone mourns." They don't have to avoid ambiguity and haziness. But they do have to be emotionally satisfying, and they have to present a conclusion that makes narrative sense, one that has compelling internal rationale.


I've had the last full chapter written for a long time, but I haven't been happy with it. I just haven't been able to satisfy that last demand. The demand that requires a story to end like an ending. One that doesn't feel as though the author merely pressed the Stop button before the final cadence sounds. And it's been bugging me. So I've stayed away.


I took a beach trip with my family the weekend nearest to July 4. If you've followed the story, you'll know why, lol. I had some fun time with the family, some fun time with old friends, and some alone time to walk the beach and reflect. And while I was there, the way through all of that mess with the story just sort of came to me.


So...if I can squeeze out an hour or two, I'm going to rewrite that final chapter and get it finished so I can post the dang thing. The Epilogue will be a piece of cake. It'll be short, and I'd essentially pre-written it the day I wrote the Prologue. But it's that dang Chapter 35 that's been beating up on me...and I finally have it figured out.


You won't see any special brilliance in the conclusion. Nothing that suggests that there was an ongoing problem that I've solved in a stunningly creative way. All you'll see is a shutdown that makes some sense. Makes some sense in the story, and makes some sense in terms of what we need stories to do.


I have a short sequel to Crosscurrents that needs writing. But that won't be my next project. Over the decade that I've been working on CC, I've had some other ideas spring up, ideas that wanted to work their way into stories. I'll be turning to those next. I need a break from Andy and Matt, and I have a feeling they need a break from me. And the next things I write should go considerably faster, because they won't be so heavily autobiographical. They won't weigh on me quite as heavily. One thing I do know is that Matt needs to narrate the sequel. And so he will. But that's a story for another day.


Thanks for staying with me over all these years, Intrepid Reader. Your loyalty is about to pay off.

Edited by Adam Phillips
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