Just keep digging

This is my daughter's fort. During the summer, you can usually only spot her feet dangling from one of the middle branches. For perspective, check out the chairs under the tree.

We woke to a winter wonderland this morning, a thick, wet blanket of snow covering our yard, just as a small patch of green had started to poke through from last month’s storm.

As we bundled up – me to shovel, the children to sled – it occurred to me that clearing the snow has a lot of parallels to writing a novel.

Once an idea forms, a writer has to take action, much like shoveling wasn’t optional.

At first, you dig in, churning out words like flinging snow behind you. It’s easy; there’s nothing to it!

And then reality, like tired arms, sets in. You look at what you’ve accomplished, and you’re proud. But you’ve got so, so much left to do.

Who's idea was it to buy a house with a driveway this long? Oh, yeah. It was mine.

Here’s where you could stop. You could say, “Hey, I tried, but I’m just not cut out for this.” Eventually the idea will fade, just as snow eventually melts. But until it does, you might face a situation that quickly turns so slick it knocks you on your butt with regret every time you try to step outside.

So you face the work ahead – long, heavy, thankless and lonely – and you keep digging.

Around you, others might be having fun. They might be whizzing by on a sled, building snow families, twirling among the flakes. You might be envious. You might even put down your shovel, play a little. And then you pick it back up and you keep digging.

(Side note: In the middle of hour two of shoveling, your parents might call from Cocoa Beach, Fl., the first port of call on their cruise. They might complain about having to sit under a shade umbrella in the 81-degree heat, and how, at 68-degrees, the ocean was a bit too chilly for swimming. And you might want to pummel them with your shovel.)

Before long, you’ll realize what’s left to do is less than what you’ve already accomplished. And you’ll keep digging.

Behind you, there might be piles you’ve somehow skipped. Areas that could be clearer. You’ll get to them. But first you need to finish this draft. I mean, driveway.

Just when you think you’ve finished, there it is. A mountain of snow right at the end. (Thank you, Mr. Plow Driver.) You’re tired. You’re hungry. You wonder if it’s even been worth it. But you keep digging, this time layer by layer, until you see it.

The End.