Journey To The Well
Randy Ingermanson 

Randy Ingermanson has published six novels and received about a dozen awards for his writing. He holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley and is the entire software department for Vala Sciences, a San Diego biotechnology company. Randy is the inventor of the "Snowflake Method," used by novelists around the world to design their novels. He the publisher of the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, the world's largest electronic magazine on writing fiction. More than 1000 novelists read his daily blog, the Advanced Fiction Writing Blog. Randy's goal is to become Supreme Dictator For Life, and he may have already succeeded. Visit his site at

That Blocked-Up Feeling by Randy Rooney

aka Randy Ingermanson

They even call it writer’s block...

Sitting at my desk doing routine backups of my hard drive, I tried to figure out how to write the next scene of my novel when the phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was Sam the plumber calling. There was just no point in spoiling a perfectly bad day by talking to Sam, so I let it ring.

Footsteps outside in the living room. My wife, Eunice, picked up the phone. “Hello?” A short pause. “Oh, um, no, he’s not available. He’s doing backups right now.”

I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. I had painted my lead character into a corner in the previous chapter. Which is what a novelist is supposed to do—end each scene with a cliffhanger.

The only problem is that eventually, you have to get the guy out of trouble. You can wing it for a couple of scenes by switching to another character. Sooner or later, though, you have to get your man out of the corner or off the cliff. Or, in my case, I had to get my man out of a dark alley and past three thugs who intended him great bodily harm.

I’d put it off as long as possible, but today I had to do it. And I had no idea how.

“No, really, Sam, that won’t be necessary,” Eunice said. “He’s got it under control. It’s normal for writers. They even call it writer’s block. But it always works itself out in the end.”

I had no idea what Sam thought he’d be able to do, but one thing was for sure. He was not going to “help” me with my novel. I’d figure this thing out on my own.

Half an hour later, I had typed exactly three letters, forming the emotively power-packed word “The.”

It was a good start, I thought, and I had even typed a space after it. But I couldn’t decide what the next word ought to be.

The doorbell rang in a way that could only be caused by a particularly large and persistent thumb. I rolled my chair back and slammed the door of my office shut.

The bell rang again. And again.

Footsteps in the entryway.

I grabbed the door and shouted, “I’m not—”

“Hi, Sam,” Eunice said at the door. “What brings you out here?”

“How’s he doing?” Sam said.

“Um . . . fine, I think. Just . . . blocked, you know.”

“Yes, I’m fine,” I said. “Just fine. Boffo. Never been better.”

“Hold that thought,” Sam said. There followed the very solid thunk of something heavy being dropped on my tile entryway.

I winced and looked out of my office.

A large metal canister with an electric motor on its top sat on the floor. Sam was outside, hauling in an enormous wheeled contraption with thick electric cables, rubber hoses, three ominous gauges, and a long stainless steel tube.

“What’s all this about?” I asked.

Sam grunted and wheeled the monster inside. “All backed up?”

“Yeah, but . . .” I couldn’t understand Sam’s sudden interest in backups. It’s important, but I just didn’t know he cared about data security.

“Well, don’t you worry about that,” Sam said. “We’ll get ya unblocked in a jiffy. I done this before, ya know, and it’s real quick and easy.”

Eunice and I looked at each other and started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Sam said. “Just between you and me, this ain’t no laughing matter. I had it myself once, and it wasn’t no picnic.”

A loud chorus of meows erupted down the hall.

My wife sighed and went off to feed the cats. We had recently added a third cat to our menagerie. He’s small but he eats more than Zephyr and Rocky combined, and then terrorizes them all around the house. He’s a frisky little guy, but his frisky days will soon be over.

Sam, hands on his hips, glared at me. “Honest, I’m starting to feel underdepreciated here. I drive all the way out here with the absolute latest state-of-the-ark in unblocking technology, and you start laughing at me. How about a little respect for the guy who’s gonna get ya unblocked?”

I leaned against the wall and tried to wipe the enormous grin off my face. “Sam, I don’t think you quite understand what’s going on here. We don’t have pipes that are blocked up. It’s me who’s blocked. It’s called writer’s block. But it’s okay, I’ll get it worked out soon.”

Sam shook his head impatiently. “Look, I ain’t got all day and time’s ticking. Do you want help or don’t you?”

“How could you possibly help me? There’s nothing wrong with our pipes.” Sam just looked at me like I was a monkey wrench without benefit of the wrench. “Look, if it was just your pipes that was blocked, I’da sent my assistant. But yer wife told me you was all blocked up, and ya just now admitted it yerself. I’m gonna snake ya out first, and if that don’t work, I’ll blast it out with this steam thingie.”


He grabbed my arm with a meaty hand and powered me into my office. “Look, this here is the perfect spot for it. It’s nice familiar surroundings and there’s a door for privacy. This won’t hurt at all. Well, okay, it’s gonna hurt a lot, but it’ll be quick. I done this before, lots of times. Now just drop your—”

“No!” I yanked my arm out of Sam’s grasp and backed toward my desk, looking for a weapon. There was no way Sam was going to snake me out, or steam-clean me out, or anything. My desperate hand closed on a letter opener. It was small, but double-edged. And wicked sharp.

Sam’s eyes gleamed. “All right, so you ain’t gonna cooperate. Maybe I better holler for your wife to come hold you down.”

The phone rang again.

Sam gave me a friendly smile and took a step toward me, his eyes locked on my letter opener. “Lookit, this ain’t as painful as it sounds. I even had it done on me once, and I don’t hardly remember nothing from it.”

I backed away from him, holding out the letter opener at eye level.

Footsteps outside. “Hello?” my wife said.

I studied Sam, timing my move. No jury in America would convict me for what I was about to do.

“Yes, Sam’s right here,” Eunice said.

Confusion clouded Sam’s eyes.

I decided that I’d count to three and then lunge for his heart.

“How long will it take him to recover?” Eunice said. “It just breaks my heart to do it to him, but I guess we can’t let him reproduce.”

Sam’s face turned green.

“Yes, I’ve got the sleepy-pills. When should I give them to him?”

Sam mopped at the sweat on his forehead with a grimy sleeve and backed toward the door.

I pressed after him, waving my letter opener savagely.

Once in the entryway, Sam grabbed the handle of the steam monster, yanked it outside, and lugged it furiously toward his truck, stumbling over his enormous feet.

I grabbed the snake, heaved it outside onto the porch, slammed the door, and threw the deadbolt.

“Okay, good-bye then, we’ll see you in the morning with Sam.” My wife hung up the phone and came into the entryway. She stopped and stared at me. “What are you doing with that letter opener?”

My hand was shaking and I couldn’t speak.

Sam backed out of the driveway at high speed, braked to a screech, then roared away.

A chorus of caterwauling came tearing down the hallway and around the corner. Zephyr and Rocky raced to a safe haven behind me, pursued by a demonic white kitten with black spots.

I reached down and picked him up. “Samiel! You’re a very, very, very bad little boy!”

Samiel clawed at my sleeve, shredding it in seconds.

“He won’t be a little boy much longer,” Eunice said. “The vet just called and we need to take him in tomorrow by 8:00. But . . . what happened to Sam?”

I shrugged. “What we had there was a failure to communicate.”

She giggled. “Oh, right. He thought our pipes were blocked.”

“Something like that.” I walked into my office, staring at the letter opener.

Eunice followed me in. “Are you still having that awful writer’s block?”

I shook my head. “Nope. All unblocked.”

“Really? That’s great! How’d you figure it out?”

I ran my thumb along the cool metal edge of the letter opener and leaned back in my chair, closing my eyes and breathing deeply. “Sam unblocked me.”

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