March 27, 2017

Behind the Litter Truck: Encouragement for the Writer in Transition

By Jennifer Hallmark

Did you ever have one of those days that started off pretty good then suddenly went all wrong? Me too…

One lovely fall afternoon, I decided to visit my mom, taking a shortcut through narrow, winding, country roads to her home. The leaves had turned from green to brilliant shades of red and gold and it was a good day to be alive.

Then I drew close behind a slow-moving truck. I groaned. Ahead of me was not just any truck but a litter-spreader truck, filled to overflowing with chicken litter from a nearby chicken farm. The stench, a cross between manure, garbage, and rotten fish, pervaded my car. I couldn’t pass him on the curvy road and it would be too much trouble to turn around and go a different way.

I clutched the steering wheel and groaned. “Why me?” I spoke out loud. “This is my writing life. I’m on the right road, doing what I’m supposed to be doing (as far as I know) and I’m stuck behind a slow, smelly truck.” I crept along at 20 miles an hour. Would it ever turn to another road? Would I ever make it to my destination? How could I get out of my place of struggle, this transition?

How do we get out of this foggy, uncertain place?

Have you been there? Or like me, are you there now? You know that point where you’ve been writing awhile and your hobby/career seems to be progressing nicely. You’ve been to numerous writing conferences, made connections with other writers, and you know it’s finally time for…

The big break.
The contract.
Signing with an agent.
The bestseller.

So you sit back and wait. And wait. Days stretch into weeks and crawl into months. No emails. No phone calls. Nothing. Cue the sound of chirping crickets. Now what?

You’ve come too far to go back but not far enough to feel confident.

Like in my driving analogy, you feel stuck. So how do we respond?

As I drove I realized I could:
(1)  Hold my nose. If I didn’t breathe through my nose, the smell would lessen. And if I didn’t dwell on the negative, I could focus more on what I can do instead of what I can’t.
(2)  Don’t follow too close. I slowed down because chunks of litter were bouncing out from under the loose tarp on top. I didn’t want it on my car. Fretting and trying to make something happen by getting close wouldn’t help me. I could, however, slow down and enjoy the scenery, my journey as it was. Creativity is stifled when you worry.
(3)  Realize that at some point the truck would turn or I would. When I was about a mile from mom’s house, the truck kept going straight while I veered to the right. At last. The odor diminished and I could speed up again. A few minutes later, I arrived at my destination. If I keep plugging away at my writing, learning, always willing to change and grow, open to opportunity, and forever laying it all before God, something will change.

Mostly me.

If you’re like me and your writing career is stalled behind a stinky truck, don’t give up hope. I’m learning patience, perseverance, and the ability to focus on my journey and not just the destination or goals I’ve set. When I slowed down, I could take in the beauty of God’s creation surrounding me. And I could follow the progression of life and even write an article from the experience.

So while waiting, I can be thankful. And try to smell the roses. Even while following a litter truck…
Jennifer Hallmark is a writer of Southern fiction and also fantasy; a combination that keeps the creative juices flowing. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet, short stories in several magazines, and been part of three book compilations: The Heart Seekers Series,Sweet Freedom A La Mode, and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. Jennifer’s website, Alabama-Inspired Fiction, and the group blog she co-founded, focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers. She sends out a monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to at her author page. You can visit her onFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max. Their daughter Mandy is married to Tim and has given them two beautiful granddaughters, Ava, and Sadie and a handsome new grandson, Zeke. Their son, Jonathan, is married to Kristie and they’re expecting their first child. Kristie has two precious children: Cohen and Phoebe. Jennifer loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with all her grandchildren. At times, she writes.When she’s not working in the garden or keeping the grandkids.

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