Most writers I know are fairly self-conscious by nature and most have a lot invested in being “writerly.” Writing as a profession seems to define its practitioners in a way that baking or delivering mail, say, doesn’t. Don’t you find that as soon as you tell people you’re a writer, they seem to hang on your words with an extra bit of anticipation? Aren’t you mortified when you struggle to come up with the right phrase while in conversation or type the wrong word in a blog? As a writer, you should have all the contents of Webster’s readily at your fingertips if not your tongue, right? Everyone expects you to be able to solve the Times crossword puzzle (on Friday) but also have the mot juste for every occasion. (This, by the way, applies to those of us who merely work with books as well, not just those who write them.)
So, how mortifying if one’s final words as a writer were pedestrian—“I’m dying,” “Get me a glass of water,” “Ugh.” Just think how put out the people hanging around your bedside as you are preparing to breathe your last would be if you didn’t come up with a concluding statement for the ages.
Or maybe it’s just me. This HuffPost offering has me thinking about what I would like my last words to be. It’s important to be concise (you probably won’t have much time), clever but somewhat profound—unless satire is your métier—and sincere. So, I think I’m going to start working on the perfect goodbye phrase. Hopefully, I won’t need to use it for a very, very long time, but it’s good to be prepared. After all, you only have one chance to get it right.
What would your last words be? Would you be sweet like Virginia Woolf, poetic like Emily Dickinson, pissy like Eugene O’Neill, or droll like Oscar Wilde? Give me some suggestions. If nothing else, a good parting phrase will come in useful in your fiction.