I’m gearing up to read the draft of what’ll likely be my third novel. I put the beast aside over a year ago when I returned to the second (now done, and its news will be told as soooon as possible, I swear).

My read through will begin on Monday, the day after my Fearless Finishing class meets online for the very first time (so excited!). As my students address their drafts, I’ll be working in solidarity with them on mine.

I say it’ll “likely” be my third because, of course, nothing’s carved in stone. There’s another, intriguing story gurgling and who knows? The creative path is anything but linear.

What I do know is that it’s still alive.

I wrote a new scene for it this morning, when I was contemplating whether it really needs to be set in 1986 or if it could be told in contemporary times (right now I’m leaning towards the eighties).

So, I want to read it.

I’m curious.

I can feel how eager I am to get to it but also my nerves have started prickling.

This time, with the clock ticking towards the day I’ve marked on my calendar as “read the draft” day, always feels to me like I’m scouting about at the entrance of a cave.

I’m summoning the courage to go in, excited at the secrets I’ll find – precious veins glittering in the dark walls, hidden treasures covered in a mist of dust – and at the prospect of carefully mapping those corridors, digging new tunnels when I get lost, closing up passages that aren’t needed, but I’m also a little bit freaked out.

I mean, it’s scary in there!

And there are things that will take me by surprise: sudden fluttery bats in the hair with their dry-skin wings, the skeletons of former occupants.

Inevitably, the place won’t be anything like I imagined.

Sometimes, it gets so dark. Like PITCH. Like a can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face type of blindness that requires standing still for awhile, waiting for the thinnest strand of light.

Anticipating all of this, it’s so tempting to say: “You know what? I’m good.”

I don’t need to go back in there.

Then turn around and walk away.

But the cave itself is carved out of stone.

It isn’t going anywhere. Not ever.

It will always be there, sitting at the corner of my life’s terrain.

A landslide might block the entrance but nothing will erase those passages I dug, day after painstaking day, through a long winter of writing.

No matter what “the cave” is – a novel, a short story, a fledgling memoir, an essay, or,  for that matter, a film shot and waiting to be edited, a painting conceptualized and sketched out, a knit sweater that just needs to be seamed – it can’t be undone (well, the sweater can, but then there’s the yarn, all kinked and sometimes ruined from the unravelling, and those hours spent knitting and frogging still exist).

So, suck in a breath with me, folks.

Crack your knuckles.

Stretch out your hamstrings.

Do what you’ve got to do.

We’re going in.

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P.S. In other news, this happened this week! How lovely! Click the picture to check out the other 99 blogs on Write Life’s terrific annual list (you’ll find me at number 19). And huge hugs and gratitude to anyone who nominated me.