Driving through a snowstorm on Sunday, I was reminded that the most dangerous moments of driving in snow were starting, stopping, and turning. When going straight at a steady pace, everything is okay (as okay as it gets driving in a snowstorm).
And, during the two and a half hours I was on the road, I got to thinking that those three moments are the most dangerous times for writers, too.
Starting is hard. We face that blank page (a lot like a snowy whiteout!) and press the accelerator. Sometimes our wheels spin for a while before we find traction in the story. Sometimes we slip a bit and get off-track immediately.
Stopping can be worse. We get to the end and try to wrap things up, but instead slide into a ditch or spin out into someplace we didn’t want to go. Our endings can run away with us, or they can drag out because we subconsciously don’t want to leave this world we created. And when we do manage to end, we can often feel lost or disoriented, not sure where the road forward is.
Turning is scary. Changing directions in our writing, whether within a work or trying something new, can cause us to fishtail, flailing wildly to try and find our footing. Intersections are often slushy, churned with confusion. It’s hard to find that new direction.
The most dangerous moments in writing, and in life, are those moments of momentum shift. It’s easy when everything’s going straight and steady. But throw in a new start, a stop, or a turn? It’s so easy to lose control. So easy to crash. So hard to recover from a crash. So terrifying.
So we’re tempted to just keep going straight.
But sometimes we need to drive through the storm. Sometimes we need to risk the starts and stops and most of all the turns. We need to push on. Because you know that wonderful feeling you get once you see your destination through the snow? When you climb out of your car and rush into the warm, inviting house and suddenly everything is right with the world?
That’s what’s on the other side of the storm.