With every round of revisions I make to this essay, I'm convinced I'm finally ready to write my conclusion. Everything else is falling into place. About a week ago I felt confident enough to scrap my old conclusion, which I'd been hanging onto in the hope that some portion of it might still work. Since then, I've occasionally started drafting something that seemed like it might be a note I could end on. So I write half a paragraph, and then I lose enthusiasm and leave it stranded there amid a bunch of white space.
So far I've got four or five of those maybe-conclusory, half-finished thoughts. They hang out like awkward dudes at a bar: keeping their distance; fiddling with their drinks; making occasional eye-contact and then pretending they didn't; never getting up the nerve to start a conversation.
I can't blame them. I'm not really interested in them either. So I ignore them, tinkering with the few places that still need work in the rest of the essay--a bit of framing here, a little historical background there. If I'm still not feeling it once that's done, maybe I'll fix my footnotes.
Eventually I'll know how I want this to end, who I want to go home with. Another guy will show up at the bar, and that'll be it. But that time is not yet.