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  • Blizzards, Writing & Uncertainty: How to Find Your Way Through
This blog was featured on 12/15/2017
Blizzards, Writing & Uncertainty: How to Find Your Way Through
Written by
Alissa Johnson
December 2017
Written by
Alissa Johnson
December 2017

Sometimes, life hands you the perfect metaphor for writing. Like a blizzard I drove through last month:

My instincts told me to get a hotel room even though the Friday evening workshop I taught was two hours from home. But it had been a long week and it was only 7:30 PM—dark but still early. I pointed the car toward home and started for the first mountain pass.

Rain turned to snow. Snow turned to blowing gusts and whiteouts.

My speed dropped from 60 miles an hour to 10. I called home, asked Pete to check the Colorado Department of Transportation website. It showed the roads as clear.

"It'll be better once you reach the top," he said. "Cerro Summit is always the worst."

Turning around seemed riskier than continuing, so I pressed on. I navigated by the tire tracks in front of me and the occasional glimpse of mile markers. At times, the wind gusted so hard that the snow appeared like a whirling wall in front of me. For an instant, I'd be certain—I'd never see another tire track or another guardrail again.

I shouldn't be here, I thought. This isn't safe. This is wrong.

But I was there. There was no longer any other place to be. 

At the summit, two vehicles and a semi had parked on the side of the road, hazards flashing. I pulled in behind a pickup, wind buffeting my RAV4 as I wondered if I would have to pull out my sleeping bag and spend the night. Then a car went by and the pickup followed it down the pass. I decided to go while I had tire tracks to follow.

I inched downhill, aware that I was on the outside of the curves, very few stretches of guard rail and a steep drop to my right. But the wind blew less forcefully. I could see further down the road, and if I took it slow, my tires maintained their grip on the road.

I resigned myself to a long, slow drive home and relaxed. And then I thought of writing.

Yes. Driving through a blizzard, I thought about writing. 

I realized that when writers are afraid or worried or uncertain, they feel like I did during the whiteouts. I was not afraid because of what was happening in that moment but because I assumed that every moment thereafter would the same—I'd never catch a glimpse of my way forward.

But the moment did pass. Visibility returned. And when I stopped fighting the situation (I shouldn't be here) I figured out how to deal with it (go slow and take my time).

Writing is the same way. The way you feel in this moment won't last. Your assumptions may be wrong. When you accept where you are, you can slow down and figure out what to do next.

If you've been feeling stuck or uncertain in your writing (maybe even fearful) try these prompts:

  • I've been assuming that...
  • But it's possible that...

Let me know what you find in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

P.S. Ready for a writing breakthrough? Break free from writing rules that don't work and find your way with my FREE three-part series: Inside the Writers Mind. The first insight (and writing prompt) could be yours today.

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