Welcome to Micro Monday, where you get a quote and a writing prompt every Monday to help you build a portfolio of work. Learn more here.

Quote of the Week: “A dead end street is a good place to turn around.” Naomi Judd

Writing Prompt of the Week: Write for 10 minutes about something you are no longer sure of.

If you’re new to micro and writing with me, check out this post here. If you’d like to read some micro narratives, this anthology, Nonwhite and Woman: 131 Micro Essays on Being in the World, is a great place to start.

The Dead End Dilemma

Dead end streets. Dead end jobs. Dead end relationships. 

Dead ends refer to anything where there is no perceived exit. In writing, dead ends are when you’ve gone as far as you can go, only to hit a wall. You’ve done everything you can, but this is it. The end of the road.

Maybe there’s another way out. It’s a test, right? A challenge? Maybe this isn’t what it seems. Maybe there’s something else going on here. Best we hang out here a little bit longer, just to be sure …

And so it goes, the pacing back and forth in front of an otherwise solid wall, waiting for a secret door to reveal itself while our uncertainty and disillusionment grows. While it’s true that a solution might present itself, stop pacing. Stop roaming around the cul-de-sac, pretending to enjoy the view while hoping, a bit desperately, that something will change.

Get Ready to Pivot

It boils down to this: at what point will you ask yourself, “What am I doing here?” Or, if you’ve been pacing for a while, “What am I still doing here?” We can spend hours, days, months, years analyzing this, or we can do the simple act of turning around and walking out.

Yes, we’re going back the way we came, but our intention is different now. We recognize that where we were wasn’t providing an outlet, so we’re looking for a new one. What we aren’t doing is staying in the same spot, expecting change when it’s clear no change is coming. 

Writing a novel (or any book, paper or report) is akin to walking down a street, thinking that you know where you’re going, only to turn a corner and hit a dead end. If every writer gave up when they hit this moment, very few books would be written, much less published.

Over the years, I’ve discarded well-written chapters, witty scenes, and characters I’ve fallen in love with. I have been able to repurpose some of it, but most I’ve had to let go. With my current novel, I circled the cul-de-sac for, oh, 15+ years. I tried for a long time (too long) to make it work before I finally admitted I’d hit a dead end and found the courage to turn around and start again. 

Stay or Go

If you’re working on something that’s not working, you decide what to do next. Stay or go. If you stay, you risk not moving and your work not moving. You continue to loop in a holding pattern, waiting for a change in something external, like the appearance of another way out which may or may not come. I won’t be absolute about this, because sometimes waiting is a necessary part of the writing process (confusing, I know). If your book or creative project is tenacious and won’t let you go (or you won’t let it go), fine. But stop hanging around and start moving. Start writing or creating again.

Don’t worry about time lost. Don’t beat yourself up. We can use everything that happens on this writer’s journey, including dead ends. If you continue to move forward with purpose and intention, and stay open to whatever may come, a new path will reveal itself and in the end you’ll get to where you want to be all the sooner.

If you feel like you need a bigger nudge, check out Tim Ferriss’ post, “When to Quit” or Chuck Wendig’s “Six Signs It’s High Time to Give Up on Writing” (Chuck’s post is especially in helping you decide if/how you want to keep writing, yet knowing if a project just isn’t coming together). If you’d like some personalized guidance, schedule a consult with me.

If you’ve written some micro you’re proud of, share it in the comments below. Until next time, write well!

This post originally appeared in Darien’s column, The Writer’s Corner, in North Hawaii News, and has been gently modified for writer-ish.com.

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