Why writing is like swimming except you don’t need a towel (or do you?)
Before I thought of trying to become a published writer I admit I regarded writing as a bit of a mystical inspiration-driven revelation spilling out like a Roman fountain. Well, that fiction was soon tossed onto the dust heap. A year and a bit after my first book has been published I am at least clear on one thing – writing is a process like any o
ther in our life, riddled with pleasure and pain and predictable obstacles, and I go about it just like I go about other processes, for good and for bad. I write the way I work, the way I parent, even the way I shop. Sad but true. Now I discovered I write the way I swim.
I love swimming – with two little kids and two careers I don’t get to do much of it any more but I love it.
While trying desperately to finish the second book in my Wild Lords series which starts in November I escaped to the pool to try and get some perspective and drown out desperation. I went through my usual breaking points:
(1) The first is getting into the water in the first place. I mean – it’s cold! And I’m as close to coldblooded as it gets this side of a lizard. But I curse and weep inwardly and take the plunge, literally, knowing that within four or five laps that at least will be behind me. The same with writing – there are endless ideas for a book but you have to take the plunge and commit to one of them, ready to take it all the way.
(2) The real breaking point comes one third into my swim. I hit fifteen minutes or so and realize – that was only one third? I have two do this twice again? No way! What was I thinking? What am I doing here with all these svelte thirty year old metrosexual men and women skimming through the water in the neighboring lanes, I should just face the middle aged facts and find a more appropriate way of trying to stay fit and sane than torturing myself each time in the freezing waters when I just want to go sit in the Jacuzzi and maybe pray for a margarita.
With my writing this is the 25k word count point – I often love what I have so far but wonder how on earth with so much already fully formed of this story am I going to manage another 50k words? The story is so large in my mind it seems absurd that it is only a third of the way done. I already have HEAs and epilogues bursting the seams of my gray matter but I still haven’t actually written the darn book! I begin to flounder, worrying perhaps this is the one time I really won’t have enough breath to make it all the way. Doubt sets in, dragging all other doubts with it – I don’t have what it takes amongst all those amazing writers out there who are smoother, funnier, smarter than I. I begin to sink.
This is where I grit my teeth and begin pounding at my keyboard, making gnashing noises as I try to drown out that inner critic until it actually works and then I’m sailing again…These are the great moments because they come after you vanquish doubt.
(3) Somehow I get past this point and then the strangest thing happens when I hit my appointed fifty minutes – I don’t want to stop. There is something wrong about stopping. I OWN this pool. I’m faster than the guy swimming in the other lane. I’m Wonder Woman gone aqua. Once I stop I’ll just be me again and have to face reality…I don’t even have to explain the analogy. I hate writing The End and saying goodbye to my fictional lovers.
We each have our own writing style and our own way of coping with challenges and pitfalls and joy and our whole life reflects them. At least that’s what I think. I’d be curious to hear if other writers think they write the way they live – or not.