(A Black Friday post offered with the melancholy knowledge that nobody is reading anything today…)

When we look at chapters that don’t work, one of the hardest tasks we can set ourselves is to try to understand why.

Standing back from the work, looking at it from a new perspective, can be painful. Impossible. We stalk around the thing. We kneel to it. We squint at it until we’re crosseyed. We poke it with mental sticks.

Is it dead? Or is it just playing possum?

I’ve tried everything…. The Walking Away from It Trick. That doesn’t work, I just feel guilty. The Patience & Forgiveness Trick—good luck with that. The Run Your Head into a Wall Trick…all I got was a headache. The Go Ahead, Sleep Late Trick.  More guilt.

I am in full-on anguish mode. My imagination is stoppered-up tighter than a bottle of flat Champagne. Following the logic of my own plot is a process akin to trying to read during a dyslexia flare: It’s like looking at a plate of spaghetti and trying to follow an individual strand from one end to the other without touching it.

For a writer, this is what suffering feels like.

The upside (and damn me, I always wind up looking for the upside): Suffering is usually the last stage on my personal Kübler-Ross scale of grief. I worry, I fret, I punish myself, I hate every word and comma, I despair of the chapter ever coming out right…and suddenly the door opens and the answer is there.

My duty to the tale is to suffer as much as I can. And wait for the happy ending.