I can’t imagine how many times I’ve asked my mom that question. I remember coming home from junior high and reading her my stories. Even now, when I struggle with writer’s block, somehow it helps me to read it out loud. And my mom is my most loyal listener. So last week, when I asked her that question yet again, I wasn’t surprised by her answer.
“Yep, go ahead.”
“Okay, so the ending is really rough,” I said, “I still need to tweak it.”
I cleared my throat and jumped right in. Mom listened intently to all three pages. When I reached the final paragraph, I explained my dilemma.
“See, I’m just not sure how I want to end it.”
“Oh.” Mom sounded surprised. “I thought that was the end.”
“No, no, that’s not the end,” I said. “I still need another sentence or two. I want to make sure the reader gets my point. I want to tie the ending back to the beginning.” I rambled on and on, describing all the work still needing to be done.
Later, after hanging up the phone, I scanned through those last paragraphs again. This time I saw it differently. Maybe Mom was right.
Suddenly I remembered something my pastor had said when describing how effective speakers end a speech. “When it comes time to finish, they don’t rehash every point all over again. They know it’s time to end, and they end it.” Then he said, “Sometimes you need to stop circling the airport and just land the plane.”
Isn’t that the truth! I think we’ve all endured speakers who didn’t quite know how to land that plane.
I think that concept works, not only for speakers and writers, but for parents as well. I know, because I tried it out on my teenager last week. We were talking about something - and I had a very important point I wanted to make. Soon I found myself rambling on and on, telling her the same thing several different ways.
Her eyes began to glaze over. I couldn’t be sure she was even still listening. Then I heard that little voice inside my head.
Okay Sheri … it's time to prepare for landing. You’ve made your point.
Whether it’s my writing or my parenting, I don’t want to keep circling the airport. I want to be effective. I want my audience to stay engaged. Instead of going in circles, I think next time I’ll try for the perfect landing.