Whenever we get a large snowfall in Minnesota, I’m reminded of the time I was saved by a snow angel. We were being whomped with a massive blizzard and I was scheduled to work at a bookstore until 11:00 p.m. By the time the boss said it was okay for me to leave, it was too late: my car got completely stuck in the middle of a city street. I was miles from home, it was well after dark, freezingly cold, and I was covered in snow up to the hem of my skirt. There wasn’t a person or a lit house in sight; everyone else was nestled snugly in their beds.
Those were pre-cell phone times. Knowing that if I left my car in the middle of the street it would become snowplow road kill — something my bookstore salary couldn’t aﬀord — I was using the rarely-eﬀective problem-solving method of “wringing my hands and moaning” when a ﬁgure appeared out of nowhere. One moment nobody was there, and the next a guy was setting a can of beer down on my snow-covered hood and shoveling out my wheels. He didn’t say a word. Once he had the underside of the car cleared, he motioned me into the front seat, and with him pushing, we managed to get my vehicle out of harm’s way to the side of the road. He waved oﬀ my oﬀer of payment and disappeared into the storm (with his presumably now ice-cold beer in hand). I remembered that a friend of mine lived only a couple of blocks away, and I showed up unannounced on her doorstep at midnight to be welcomed with hot cocoa, dry clothes, and a pull-out sofa.
That episode is one of the times, for me, when the idea of a bigger force at work in my life seems not only possible, but probable. Both at the time and in my memory, my snow angel feels like a ﬁgure from far outside of everyday reality: popping up between snowﬂakes just in time to deal with my crisis, and then vanishing silently and completely. Besides, it’s somehow fitting that any angel of mine would be chugging beer out of a can rather than a headier celestial brew.
Some young writers (like some professionals) really struggle with writing at times, and my experience is that it’s important to tell them that this is a perfectly normal part of the creative act. Wrangling words onto paper requires us to face down challenges. The trick is to continue to push yourself out into the creative storm, into the places where your writing will get stuck — because where you get stuck is also the place you can grow. Or at least, the place where you can learn to accept miracles.
Writing well is hard. If you’re not challenging yourself as a writer, you can turn into writing road kill. Besides: angels need a reason to show up.