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?
4 thoughts on “Bloody 13”
You’re kidding, right? Lately I feel like my writing car has been moldering in the scrap yard. Every once in awhile it shows some spark. I have been trying, though. I just keep trying that ignition until I get some spark.
Oh, my writing car stalls all the time. Luckily, I don’t have any semis headed my way (yet), but I have no doubt I’ll panic like a little girl the first time I do.
I honestly don’t know what starts it back up again. Sometimes, it seems to restart itself. Others, I let myself write some little fanfiction short or something. And sometimes, I just make myself bull through those one-sentence days that are so, so awful until something gives.
The worst times are when nothing I do helps, and I just have to get out of the car and take a walk. That’s when I play sudoku for a week straight or start some huge craftsy project or whatever. It can be good to get out and remember that there are other things, but it always feels like missing a little part of my soul when I do it.
well having just gone through a massively long dry spell during which I wrote exactly NOTHING…. i can at least say i am quite familiar with how you feel! 😀 and i’m sure stress and disruption of your routine have a LOT to do with it. therefore it stands to reason that reducing stress (however you most like to do that) and reestablishing a routine should help. Should. heh.
i also think that exploring the other creative outlets that you enjoy seems to allow your imagination the space it sometimes seems to need. maybe it’s crafts. maybe it’s soduku. for me a lot of times it’s solitaire.
however, when all else fails and that semi really IS bearing down on you, you can always sprint. that’s what i’m doing now. set a timer for 10 minutes, move your fingers on the keyboard until it goes off. repeat. it can suck. it can suck BAD. but somehow it always gets the spark going again. (eventually… )
I call this author burnout. It happens to me every time I’m knee deep in projects, edits, and deadlines (self-imposed or otherwise). I think it has to do with expressing so much creative energy and forgetting to refill the tank. I tend to have to dabble in other creative endeavors to get myself revved up creatively. Reading, music playlists, research, watching fave movies or shows always help remind me what I love about a well written story. I get giddy about scenes or words placed a certain way, or even art (museums are great for this) to get a better view of the big picture. By then I can get back in the car and drive. Slow at first, but enough to get me motivated again.