Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Closing the Books

In a world where the only constant is change, how can you say what something really is? We like to think of our adult selves as relatively fixed. At a physiological level, however, the ongoing processes of cellular senescence and regeneration mean that roughly every seven years we get completely new bodies. Are we really still the same person?

Questions like that keep philosophers gainfully employed but they also bedevil other fields. Accountants, being eminently practical, have a simple solution: they close the books. While originally a concrete activity involving physical accounting books the phrase now refers to the end of one accounting period and the beginning of another. By creating accounting periods, it becomes possible to say exactly what the balances were at that point without the distraction of pending transactions.

Closing the books, in accounting and beyond, has two advantages: first, it enables us to take stock of our situation and assess our progress toward our objectives; second, it allows us to start with a new baseline uncluttered by the uncertainties that accumulated during the last period.

The beauty of the notion of closing the books for writers is that we’re greeted with a blank page when we open the new book. Some people find blank pages terrifying to the point of immobility: what should they put where? But filling blank pages is what we’re all about. How will you fill yours?


Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net