Quote of the Week: “A dead end street is a good place to turn around.” Naomi Judd
Writing Exercise of the Week: Write for ten minutes about something you are no longer sure of.
Dead end streets. Dead end jobs. Dead end relationships.
Dead ends refer to anything where there is no perceived exit. In writing, dead ends are when you’ve gone as far as you can go, only to hit a wall. You’ve done everything you can, but this is it. The end of the road.
Maybe there’s another way out. It’s a test, right? A challenge? Maybe this isn’t what it seems. Maybe there’s something else going on here. Best we hang out here a little bit longer, just to be sure …
And so it goes, the pacing back and forth in front of an otherwise solid wall, waiting for a kink to reveal itself while our uncertainty and disillusionment grows.
While it’s true that a solution might present itself, I want us to stop the pacing. Stop roaming around the cul-de-sac, pretending to enjoy the view while hoping, a bit desperately, that something will change. It boils down to this: at what point do you say, “What am I doing here?” Or, if you’ve been pacing for a while, “What am I still doing here?”
Good question. We can spend hours, days, months, years analyzing this very question, or we can do the simple act of turning around and walking out. Yes, we are going back the way we came, but our intention is different now—we recognize that where we were wasn’t providing an outlet, so we are looking for a new one. What we aren’t doing is staying in the same spot, expecting change when it’s clear no change is coming.
Writing a novel (or any book, paper or report) is a bit like walking down a street, thinking that you know where you’re going, only to hit a dead end. If every writer gave up when they hit this moment, very few books would be written, much less published. Over the years, I’ve had to discard well-written chapters, witty scenes, and characters I’ve fallen in love with. With my current novel I put aside an entire story line consisting of 40,000 words—a third of my book—when I realized I’d hit a dead end. I tried for a long time (too long) to try to make it work before I finally admitted I’d hit a dead end and found the courage to turn around and start again.
If you are working on something that’s not working, you decide what to do next. Stay or go. It’s as simple as that. If you stay you are not moving and your work is not moving. You’re in a holding pattern. You’re waiting for a change in something external, like the appearance of another way out which may or may not come
If turning around and going back the way you came is what is called for, don’t worry about the time lost in retracing your steps. A new path will reveal itself and in the end you’ll get to where you want to be all the sooner.
Darien’s next five-week workshop, Writing Life Stories: The Art of Memoir, begins Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m. Private consults available as well. Visit waimeaeducation.com for more information and to register.
Darien Gee is a national bestselling author based in Waimea. Her most recent novel is The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. She also writes under the name Mia King. Visit her at dariengee.com and miaking.com.