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I’m driving the 100. One of the many arteries that lead to Joe’s work. The main one, perhaps, with all other routes ultimately feeding into this one. He has to be there by 8am. 7:50 if we can swing it. We left early—earlier than he ever leaves and earlier than I’m ever awake, but I need the car and he needs to be there before “on time”. What a day to need the car.

I round the bend just past Snowden Pwky. The sun, which has been playing peek-a-boo with the Maryland foliage, breaks through the open tree tops and blinds me. I lose the road, the cars, the trees. It’s just me and the sun in the ultimate staring contest to see who’ll blink first. I hope it’s him. I kind of need my eyes open to drive.

“Just hold the course,” Joe says. His voice is calm even if his closed fists say he’s tense. He’s always tense when I drive. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a bad driver or because he’s used to driving. But my hair is a mess of windblown wisps (not the good kind) and I’m wearing his shiny red lounge pants and my marshmallow winter coat sans bra. There is no way in hell I’m getting out of the car in his work parking lot to change seats, not with the wall of windows allowing his co-workers to watch. So I drive.

Eventually the morning clouds diffuse the sunlight allowing me to see. Just a few more miles to the 103. 7:44 a.m. We’re gonna make it with time to spare. But a few exits later the road turns into a sea of blinking break lights. Traffic stops.

“Do I get off on the 103?” I ask. It’s the longer back road to work, but at least we’d be moving.

“No, it’ll open up. Just give it a moment.” We crawl forward. I make an almost ninety degree turn into the lane next to me as it seems to be moving faster. Then again, any movement is moving faster. Thoughts flit through my head as I watch the clock and inch forward. We should have gotten off. We should have taken another road. Anything would be better than sitting in a senseless traffic jam.

But soon enough the traffic opens, I skip a couple lanes to my right and we’re off on Coca-Cola headed to Joe’s building. 7:49 a.m., before “on-time”. I kiss Joe across the center console and kick him out of the car. On the way to the gas station (yes I ended up having to get out of the car anyway! *shakes fist at sky*), I realize traffic jams are a lot like writer’s block.

When we’re in the middle of the mess, we think a different road is the answer to our problems. We look at the figurative 103 as our last chance to get off. Sometimes we take the back road… at least we’re moving, right? We skip a scene or a chapter or a whole act of the book because we just can’t see our way out of the traffic. But what we don’t know is that if we’d stayed, if we’d persevered a little longer, traffic (words, thoughts, emotions) would have opened up a few miles down the road. We would have reached our desired destination in less time and with less stress.

So if you’re stuck, hang in there. Give yourself some time. Allow the traffic to work itself out. Listen to the person telling you to hold the course and believe you’ll make it, because you will.

(Then again, sometimes the highway is shutdown for hours. I guess the wisdom is in figuring out how to tell the difference between a traffic jam and a road closure so you know when to take your 103.)

What helps you cope with writer’s block?