Writing Road Kill

source: Adobe Stock #157415101

source: Adobe Stock #157415101

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.

12 Responses to Writing Road Kill

  1. Anita January 2, 2020 at 8:22 pm #

    Well said. Here’s to a year of push­ing our­selves “out into the cre­ative storm.”

    • Lisa Bullard January 3, 2020 at 3:49 pm #

      Ani­ta, I hope that in 2020, all of your cre­ative storms come accom­pa­nied with cor­re­spond­ing angels of enlightenment!

  2. Anne E Neuberger January 3, 2020 at 9:59 am #

    I appre­ci­ate your mes­sage of strug­gling with writ­ing (I am putting of get­ting start­ed again after two weeks off, which is why I am writ­ing this com­ment!) but it was the angel sto­ry that real­ly touched me. I had a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence one cold night when I was lost after doing a book talk, uncer­tain as to how to find the main road that would lead to home. No snow was falling at the time but it was a bone-chill­ing Jan­u­ary night and I had a child with me. A cig­a­rette-smok­ing stranger offered to lead me with his car to the road I need­ed to go on. Appre­hen­sive­ly, I agreed to fol­low him, lock­ing car doors, say­ing a prayer and keep­ing in mind that if he seemed to be lead­ing me into a dark­er area, I would turn around fast. But all seemed well and as soon as we reached the road I knew I need­ed, his car dis­ap­peared. He had been just ahead of us but for a split sec­ond, he round­ed a bend in the road, and when I did too, his car was gone, My daugh­ter and I kept look­ing for it, and there were no turn-offs nearby.….

    • Lisa Bullard January 3, 2020 at 3:56 pm #

      Anne, what a metaphor your sto­ry presents for the way that the cre­ative process often works out for me: uncer­tain­ly (even appre­hen­sion at times), until I take a leap of faith and, with a lit­tle guid­ance and a lot of seem­ing mir­a­cles, I man­age to find my way safe­ly! I hope that 2020 has many such occa­sions in store for both of our writ­ing lives!

  3. Joyce Sidman January 3, 2020 at 10:54 am #

    Loved this sto­ry, Lisa. Angels abound!

    • Lisa Bullard January 3, 2020 at 3:58 pm #

      Thank you, Joyce! May angels guard both your writ­ing road trips AND your jour­neys along Min­neso­ta’s snowy roads this winter!

  4. Heidi Grosch January 3, 2020 at 1:06 pm #

    Well said, Lisa. I had some­thing like that hap­pen to me more than once. Help showed up just when I need­ed it. Guess that hap­pens in many ways, and we can also be that help to oth­ers. Thanks for the encour­age­ment to keep going (and trust­ing) even when the bliz­zard winds of win­ter blow. Hap­py New Year.

    • Lisa Bullard January 3, 2020 at 4:01 pm #

      Mange takk and Hap­py New Year to you too, Hei­di! I love your reminder that we are often giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ties to be angels to oth­ers – I’m now going to make that a big and delib­er­ate part of the plan­ning I’m cur­rent­ly doing to make 2020 a year to remember!

  5. melanie January 3, 2020 at 1:39 pm #

    Love this – a won­der­ful reminder! thank you!

    • Lisa Bullard January 3, 2020 at 4:02 pm #

      Thank you, Melanie! I hope that your writ­ing path is full of angels this year (beer-guz­zling or not)!

  6. David LaRochelle January 3, 2020 at 4:12 pm #

    You always have the best sto­ries, Lisa!

    • Lisa Bullard January 3, 2020 at 4:24 pm #

      David, thank you, that’s a huge com­pli­ment – espe­cial­ly com­ing from you! I hope that both of us have many oppor­tu­ni­ties to add amaz­ing tales to our sto­ry store­hous­es in the com­ing year!

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