The Road too often Traveled

Being a writer takes you down many avenues. Groomed boulevards blooming with excellent ideas, to dark alleys with a nasty antagonist waiting at the end. A winding country road to reflect on before plot twists, or the endless Kansas highway when my characters refuse to talk to me. (Grrr.) Through the journey, if I’m doing my job well, I entertain, thrill, and say something about the human condition. But no matter where I go, my human condition gets written into the manuscript. This is great when I’ve seen something new or been surprised with a happy pit stop. Not so fun when a detour exerts itself on my creativity and won’t end.

A detour like my son’s college application process.

Okay. He did the driving and I navigated during the visits, discussions, and lengthy application legs of the trip. But just when I thought our destination was on the horizon (admission decisions) we’ve encountered one traffic jam after another of waiting. A “rest area” type place where applying “early action” means you only wait longer. The sort of travel plaza where the restaurants are closed, the vending machines are empty, and the picnic area uninviting.

Wait. Excuse me, I’m on my own Sunday drive – book four in my series. Yet no matter diligent work ethic, it struck me this week how much the indecision surrounding my son’s future had played a role in my WIP. Ideas have been kicked around for too long. Decisions I would have made months ago I stare at, bewildered. What’s worse, I caught my fictional peeps doing it too. Enough already!

I’ve learned to take care of myself as an author (i.e. if I’m exhausted, my writing will be too), but this recent venture reminiscent of driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in a thunderstorm (never again!) reminded me that I must also take care of my life. No matter the dreams I have for my son, I have my own. Which require finishing this project and starting the next.

The solution? I stared down the ROAD CLOSED sign. Now each day, I pick one of his top choices and tell myself he’s going there. Decision made, no admissions team required. I bulldoze the distraction and press onward. So I can get back to pulling out my hair over what I forgot to pack.

In the manuscript, that is.