Monday, January 14, 2013

Staying Out of the Ditch

Post by Jenny

If you’re “lucky” enough to live in a part of the world that experiences snow and ice this time of year, you know that they present particular challenges for drivers. Whether braving the interstate or getting going at a four-way stop, traction is a real issue. Slippery roads aside, ‘traction’ is used in other contexts, too. Medically, it is a pulling force exerted on a skeletal structure. And in more general terms, ‘traction’ can refer to an idea or project generating sufficient momentum to move forward.

Having gotten new tires last fall, I feel confident in my car’s traction this season. Not so with my writing. I can’t tell you how many times my writing plans slid off into the ditch last year. If there were such a thing as AAA for writers, I’d be on a first-name basis with the tow truck driver. (“Hey, it’s me. My manuscript went flat, and I’m stranded. Yes, again.”) So I thought I’d look to some winter driving tips for a little help.

Make sure you have the necessary equipment before starting out. Chocolate, tea, an inspirational book or two, and a few great ideas. Your outline is your road map.

Decrease your speed. Well, I’m a pretty slow writer, but for those of you who zoom from one project to the next, finished or not, maybe try to ease up on your accelerator a bit. Decaf helps.

Turn on your lights to increase your visibility. Visibility? I fly so far under the radar that the Pentagon couldn’t find me, let alone a literary agent.

Keep your windshield clean. It always helps to see where you’re going—in driving, in writing, and in life.

If you start to slide, steer in the direction of the skid. When our writing is headed in a direction we hadn’t intended, it’s natural to want to turn back the other way. But maybe we should go with it and see where it takes us.

Use a shovel to clear away snow—or that giant drift on your desk that prevents you from focusing on your writing.

If stuck, don’t spin your wheels. It only makes things worse. Try a quick walk, making soup, a hot shower…anything that acts as ice-melt on your brain freeze.

What’s your favorite winter tip to keep your writing moving?


Lynn said...

Love the image of steering into the skid! Guess I'd have to say that being patient enough to allow the defroster to do its work is my biggest winter challenge. I just want to drive!

Applicability to writing? Well, being patient enough to allow an idea to become clearer - yeah, that fits.


Michelle Mach said...

Great post, Jenny! My driving/writing tip would be: There's no shame in turning around and trying again another day if it just isn't working for you. Some days are just better than others. :)

Dean K Miller said...

I tend to overstock on the supplies/equipment (#1) and then let go of the wheel.

I, too, am slow so I don't fear what I'll bump in to on the way, but watch with curiosity the world sliding by, knowing it neither cares or worries of what I'll become.

That part is up to me, and my writing will be the map of my journey home.

Jenny said...

Thanks for the comments! These are all great tips. I'm cracking up about Dean's mention of letting go of the wheel. Definitely not recommended for winter driving, but I do it all the time with my writing.

Lisa Campbell said...

Man, my writing plans slide off into the ditch just about every day. I enjoyed this metaphor. I must say writing is more pleasant than driving in the snow once you've gotten in the groove of it. But sometimes the idea of writing sounds about as fun as heading out into the snow.

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