Stalling Out

stalling-airguard-0520Writing is like flying a plane.  Most of the time, it’s clear skies with just a few adjustments to stay on course. But then, without warning it can stall.

I’m flying, but I’m in a steady descent, going nowhere fast.  I pull up on the stick, to no avail. I’m getting closer to the ground. Then before it hits me, I see the red eject button and slam it with the palm of my hand. And just like that, I’m free of the situation. I’ve bailed. 

I was about a third of the way into the second draft of Security Bound (About Security Bound) and had gotten mired in an original chapter written several years ago.  At that time, the story of my stay with relatives after my mother died seemed like a logical thing to include in the story. I liked everything about it–the dialog, events, my relatives as characters.  The thing is, after I finished the first draft and had fully realized the story themes, I ought to have realized the chapter wasn’t entirely suited for the book.  My self-indulgence set me up for the stall. I had been blinded by the satisfying dialog and narrative, and had lost sight of my objective. In short, I’d forgotten to file my flight plan. I could have spared myself countless hours of struggle and the on-going, misguided belief that the flight would never be aborted. If only, if only, if only.

Much of the chapter has now been summarized, with only one scene saved from the first draft, the one that best ties in with the themes of my memoir. From here on, I’ll strive to give the chapters more thought in terms of the plot criteria I’ve set for myself.


About Ken Lutes

Ken Lutes brings his background in memoir and fiction writing to his work at the North Denver Tribune ( He enjoys interviewing his neighbors in Northwest Denver, where he has lived since 1999. After hours you will find him playing hot gypsy guitar with the Paris Swing Set band.
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8 Responses to Stalling Out

  1. ilona fried says:

    Writing is like flying a plane? Clear skies? In my experience, it’s like traveling through cloudy, turbulent weather!

  2. luministblog says:

    Hate it when that happens…

  3. navery101 says:

    And revision is like tuning the engine! Buena suerte!

  4. Ray Kemble says:

    Your flying analogy — which is spot-on, by the way — resonates with me in a somewhat different way. It’s not the unexpected descent and the desperate, last-second eject that speaks to my experience; but flying in conditions of diminishing visibility … and flying … and flying, until I find myself looking into thick soup, and saying to myself, “Where the hell am I? How did I get here?” And most importantly, “How do I get myself out of here?” I know some say, Just keep writing. I do. But as I do, I’m forever wondering, Am I on any sort of course? When I do finally get myself out of this word-soup, will I be able to find a safe place to land? // Love your blog, Ken. Thought-provoking! (My best to Laurie.) –Ray

    • Ken Lutes says:

      Hi, Ray. Thanks for your thoughtful comment–and for furthering the metaphor! (Fun, huh?)

      For me, breaking through the fog (“thick soup”), and asking “How did I get here” is kind of what I’m after–being able to fly into a space I’ve never been before. I see that as part of writing’s enchanting mystery. If, on the other hand, what you’re talking about is a feeling not of elated wonder but rather of confusion, then that, for me, would be a sign to reset my course. In my opinion (and experience), the advice to keep writing is good only insofar as it indeed provides a breakthrough. Free writes almost always do.

      • Ray Kemble says:

        Good point, Ken. There is certainly a difference between the soup of possible discovery and the soup of plain ol’ discouragement. I suppose I had been thinking of the latter. The former is exciting. And, at least for me, sometimes scary. That’s when I have to tell myself not to fret that I can’t see much, but to have faith that instruments alone will get me through. –Ray

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