by Lindsay Bandy
I thought they were going to have to call the fire company. I envisioned myself being pulled out of the McDonald’s play tunnel by a brawny stranger, making the evening news, and I knew I had to do this thing.
We were on vacation and my girls wanted to climb up together. We said okay, if you stay together. Well. Big Sister chickened out, and there was Little Sister at the top of the first tube, screaming “MOMMY!” at the top of her lungs. I shot in after her, and then I realized I couldn’t get back out the way I came in. I was stuck.
Wearing a long summer dress, I began crawling on my hands and knees with an anxious two-year old through tubes and tunnels that smelled like rubber and feet, only to get to one plastic-windowed dead end after another. The thing was huge. I just needed to find the slide to get the heck out of there. Some adorable little girls offered to lead the obviously directionally challenged lady and her kid to the slide. When we finally got there, I had to lay down flat on my back with a kid in my lap, hoping my dress could hold it together on the way down. (It did. No fire company necessary.)
The feeling of being inside of something and realizing it’s bigger and more complicated than it looks from the outside was kind of familiar to me. Writing is like that….you jump in and then you realize there’s only one way to get out, and that’s to re-think, re-write, and re-imagine until you find the right door. You hit dead ends. Sometimes, you sweat. You get a little lost and need some help finding the right plot turn or character reaction. K.M. Weiland once tweeted, “Learning to write is often a messy trek along a road littered with cardboard characters, ludicrous dialogue, and boring plots.” How true!
When you finally make it to the end, you exhale. Whew! Wow! You did it! Wait…
THEN comes the next tunnel system: Submission. This one is even more intimidating and confusing, and has all sorts of plastic windows with people watching you, discussing whether they think you can do it. This is when you consider calling that fireman and his axe. But you’re in that tunnel with your beloved WordBaby. There’s only one way out, and that’s to keep on keeping on until you find that slide.
So, remember, the slide IS there. Ask for help when you need it from people who have navigated the process before. And when you hit a dead end, don’t give up! You can do this thing.