I grew up by a highway we called “Bloody 13” because of the many accidents. My Mom worried about us kids driving back and forth on the highway all the time, and for good reason. Highway 13 is the main road from Kansas City south to Springfield and Branson. Back in the good old days, it was single lane most of the way — although now it’s a nice four lane.
One time in high school I was taking a friend home after school in my trusty blue (heap of junk) Firebird that I’d proudly bought myself. I was sitting in my lane on Highway 13 waiting to make a left-hand turn through traffic. Finally I saw a break — a semi truck was at the top of the hill, but I had plenty of time. I gunned my car.
Yes, in the middle of Bloody 13 with a semi-truck barrelling down the road at me, my car died. With my friend screaming, I slammed the gear back into park, started the car, and frantically got off the road, then we collapsed on each other in tears, relieved that we’d escaped. Definitely the worst driving experience of my teen years, although the time a semi-truck ran me off in the grass the first time I drove in Kansas City traffic is a close second.
I realized that this month has been my Bloody 13 as far as writing, too. Usually my trusty old writing car goes and goes. It doesn’t need much maintenance. The paint job might be kind of crappy, but as long as it gets me there, I don’t care much. However, I sat down to write a novella this month, and my writing car died in the middle of Bloody 13. I gave it gas, and it croaked. There wasn’t anything there.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t blocked. I had the idea, the characters, and the plot. I just couldn’t gun the engine to get the words. The poor old car just choked and spluttered. The more I floored it, the harder it choked, until it simply died with the semi-truck deadline zooming down at me. I could write, and did, but each word was like pulling teeth. The magic was gone. My normal “spark” just wasn’t there.
Luckily this project was not under contract — else I would have killed myself to finish it on time. Since it wasn’t contracted, I had to make a tough decision. I had to actually give my old writing car a break and a tune up. I had to give myself a break.
Looking back, I can identify numerous reasons for malfunction. I had a huge project at the Evil Day Job that was stressing me out. The monsters are out of school so our schedule is completely out of whack. I always feel a significant slow down in the summer months. For whatever reason, July and August are historically low production months for me. I knew that, but thought a challenge would help me beat those dog days.
Plus, we just moved! Every single time I go to cook something in the kitchen, I still have to go searching through the cabinets to find what I’m looking for. We only got the car in the garage this past weekend, and none of my books are unpacked yet.
I’m feeling a bit better. I’m doing more creative work to refill the well. This weekend, I’ll sit down with my calendars and decide what I want to work on in August.
Have you ever had your writing car die in the middle of Bloody 13? If so, what’d you do to get that engine started again?