It happened on a clear fall day when I was eight years old. I was lacing up my figure skates in the backseat of my mother’s burgandy car. We were late to my skating lessons. My brother, a year older than I and in the seat directly in front of me, was doing the same. He was my skating partner and some how we left school later than normal and the forty-five minute drive to the rink seemed to stretch out into an hour or more. My mother, driving, had turned on the radio and some folk music from singers long dead warbled out of the speakers, “On the road again. Can’t wait to be on the road again…”
“What is that car doing?” my mother asked to no one in particular.
I glanced up, laces hung limp in my hands, to see what she was talking about. There, come directly at us was a dark car.
“Where does she thinking she is going?” my mother asked again.
I looked around for the answer. There was a burned down hotel we were about to pass on our right and a gas station on our left, but it didn’t seem likely she would be going to the charred hotel and it was obvious she was not intending to go to the gas station.
“I don’t think she’s going any where,” my brother replied. He pressed his hands against the door and the side of his seat bracing himself for impact. I glanced at my mother. Her eyebrows were pressed down low over her eyes and her mouth moved without a single audible word but I understood one word, one name, that she used as a prayer- Jesus.
The dark car darted out of the line of traffic heading west, the opposite direction we were going, and moved into our lane. We were only fifteen kilometres away from the vehicle with a transport directly behind us and a steady flow of traffic to our left. I watched, eyes wide, fingers pulling at my laces like reins on a horse, tugging them back, back, back in a vein effort to halt the car’s persistent and steady approach. I froze there, watching the grim reaper race toward me and my family.
“She’s going to hit us!” my mother exclaimed as her hands tightened around the fake leather steering wheel.
One, two, three I counted in my head. The car drew closer and closer. Four, five. I could feel my heart slowing down, each beat counting out the brief moments left of what surely was my last moments on the earth. No one said anything else except for Patsy Cline’s who sang out from the radio ” get it over, I may learn to love again” And the dark car sped towards us.
This was one of the scariest moments of my childhood. Not the scariest, but definitely in the top 5 scary moments for me as a child.
As a writer we face our scary moments every time we sit down to write. Some days the fear is overwhelming and it paralyzes us as we are crushed under the heavy weight of the ever-dreaded writer’s block. Other days, we face our fear and write like our tanks will never run empty. In a recent post I saw there was a picture that stated, “The scariest moment is just before you start.” This got me thinking of what I find the scariest part of writing to be. And because I do a lot of research before hand and have a skeleton outline of my novel’s plot, starting isn’t (always) the scariest part for me. The scariest part usually comes a little later just like it does in a scary movie. The movie isn’t scary at the beginning when we are just getting to know the characters. No, the scariest part comes a little later on, when the group of friends stop their car in some deserted, dark forest where we, the viewer, know the monster hides. As a writer, my scary moment arrives just as I hit the 25,000 word mark. I’ve been speeding along nicely and then a bend in the road sends me careening into the ditch! Words, like clouds of sand, fling up all around me landing aimlessly and my work nose dives deep into the muck of murky ideas and pointlessness. This is the scary part for me. Will I ever get out of this mess? Will my story die here? Where did I go wrong? I hate being in the ditch!
Like the car in the ditch, I call for help. I pull out my research and reread articles, I review how other authors worked through similar dilemmas or I try a few writing prompts to get my wheels moving. And if that doesn’t work. I call for the proverbial tow truck to pull me out and get back on the write road. What is this tow truck you ask? I give myself time away from my story, standing on the side of the road, waiting. I might distract myself for a while with another project or rework an older piece, but then I return to my story, put the keys in the ignition and let the story hook onto me and pull me out of the ditch. I find myself there right now with the present book I am working on. And, blogging is my distraction while the story waits in the ditch. Then, soon, I will sit back down to read what I have written thus far and, hopefully, the story will hook onto me like a heavy duty tow truck and yank me back onto the Write road and I will speed off, leaving black rubber marks on the road as I leave!
May your write road be clear, the ditches few and the journey enjoyable!
Until next time!