Tania Unsworth, Children's Writer

Agony Road

21 Mar 2014

Last weekend in Vermont, I couldn’t enjoy myself because I was so worried about the book I’m trying to write. When work is going badly, I am never ‘writing’ (although words do appear on the page), I am only ‘trying to write’.

Everyone went out and left me lying on the sofa, my mind roaming helplessly over all the wrong turns, inept passages, hopeless gaps, glaring inconsistencies and generally half-baked and poorly imagined ideas that made up my miserable excuse for a manuscript.

It’s not writing badly I fear, so much as being exposed as someone who is under the embarrassing impression that they can write well.

I got up finally and went out for a drive through the empty, snow covered hills. I drove for nearly two hours, registering very little, gazing with a dull eye at historical covered bridges, little streams, the distant mountains, the white spread of calm fields. Then something caught my attention. A road sign. My foot jammed on the brake. I stopped half way on the road and half off and rolled down the window for a better look.

I’m at Agony Road, I thought with grim satisfaction. Of course I am. Where else could I possibly be?

A car suddenly drew up alongside. It had SHERIFF written on the side. A policeman got out. He was wearing sunglasses so I couldn’t read the expression on his face, but I could guess what he was thinking. “You can’t stop in the road like that!” he said. “What are you doing?”

I wasn’t sure how to explain.

“I’m lost,” I said, sounding feeble.

“Where are you heading?”

I gave him the address of the house I was staying.

“You’re not far off,” he said briskly. “Continue until you get to the fork, take a left on route 131 and that should take you right there.”

I thanked him.

“Carry on now,” he said.

So I did. I got to the fork and took a left on 131.

It doesn’t do you any good to linger at Agony Road.  Something always moves you along, sooner or later.

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