Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Public Service Announcement

A couple years back, when writing was still an idea, something I toyed around with for a bit, I was on my way into town on a fine Saturday morning in early June. The sun was shining, it was warm, the windows were down and I was grooving along. I’d had the idea of a story in my head for months, but I’d never gotten beyond the “Wouldn’t that be kind of cool to write about?” stage.

We live in an area with winding, hilly roads. I descended a hill into a little valley, rounded a curve, and there it was, sitting at the edge of the road, just outside the white line: a monstrous snapping turtle. She stared at my oncoming car with that calm, defiant look that all turtles have, her huge head raised up,, and then I was past her. When I glanced in the rear view mirror, her tail was dragging behind as she disappeared into the high grass at the edge of the road. And that’s when I had it: the moment.

The whole way into town I was writing in my head. The whole way home I was writing in my head. When I got home, I sat down and wrote a chapter, the opening of a book that soon fizzled and died. I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until the following November that I started it again, for my first NaNo. That book never went anywhere, really, not beyond the required 50,000 words, but that moment has stayed with me. And every time I see a turtle on the road, it comes back to me.

It’s June. Here in upstate New York, it’s pretty much peak time for turtles on the move, especially females who are either on their way to or on their way from egg laying sites (the one pictured below I came across a few years back, laying eggs in the gravel on the road side). Sadly, turtles are not too good at avoiding cars. The shell that makes them so good at avoiding most predators is not much uses against a 2-ton vehicle. If, in your travels, you should find a turtle in the middle of the road and it’s safe to help it, do so. But please make sure you move it in the direction it’s heading toward. Turtles are stubborn, and turtles know where they’re going. Save a life!

Photo by me

6 Responses

  1. I wish we saw more turtles around here. They're around but we rarely see them. I'd stop traffic to get a turtle across the road. I love 'em. :))

  2. What an interesting story! I don't believe there are any turtles where I live, but I vacation in some places with turtles. I shall heed your wisdom.

  3. L.G.–I have yet to meet a person who doesn't love turtles.
    Stacy–now that you're thinking about it, you're sure to see them!
    Patrick-the turtles thank you.

  4. Turtles are slow but determined. (My nickname on a writing site is The Tortoise 'coz I'm very slow but determined! lol) I hope that story percolates in your mind and you eventually find a way to bring it to fruition. Don't give up on it!

  5. -Lexa–Nothing wrong with slow. I'm a slow writer, too. As for the story in question, I don't know. It doesn't move me the way it did once, but you never know.

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