I have always enjoyed swimming and then a few years ago I got an injury that ruled out running so it had to become my main form of exercise. Add to that my current gym has a spa pool, I am motivated to go for a swim most weeks. Because I am lucky enough to go in the week when the pool is quieter, I can find I am all alone; I consider it my pool to be honest. Which means when I find others in the pool I become very wary of the right etiquette and rules to suddenly share my space.
Much like with walking, I find swimming laps inspires my brain to clear and I work through problems in whatever I am working on. There is one disadvantage of course, no pen. The other day though instead of trying to memorise a bright idea for a new scene, I was thinking about how my swimming is so much like my writing life.
Firstly, inspiration strikes but it is not the right time or place and you can’t write it down immediately. This is true as I swim under water as sitting at my desk trying to grasp and idea or being on the edge of a dream. The problem I find in the water is that I really want to count lengths, but I get distracted and lose count. Please tell me I am not the only one who likes to leave the water after an even number, preferably in the tens. It disturbs my balance the rest of the day if I stop at 28 lengths as much as it disturbs me if I have an idea but didn’t write it down. Like a buzz that irritates your ear that you can’t place.
In the water I am constantly assessing the other swimmers, not so much to see if I am in competition but to check I am in the right lane. It feels risky to go into the slow lane because I am a medium person and I may get stuck behind someone using a float or feel like I am holding someone else up. I think that this is how I often feel following the #writingcommunity. You see, really in my writing I am just plodding on at a gentle speed. I only discovered recently I may be considered a turtle writer. I find people are talking about their finishing their drafts or making their edits and I thought we were swimming at the same pace.
I often lose direction when I am swimming, whether because I am quite distracted by an idea whirring through my head or just because I am not a great swimmer; it’s hard to tell. I love the sensation of swimming underwater which makes me a liability if the pool is busier. This strikes me as like my butterfly approach to writing. I have to make myself sit to one thing but often my mind has floated off to other thoughts and I have snippets and snatches of ideas on my phone, in my files and in my journal. I don’t think my brain was made to swim in a straight line.
What I need more than anything from swimming is time to relax. It may sound like an expensive luxury to use a gym with a spa attached but it has become an essential indulgence for me that I justify. Well making time to write has been something I know now I need as much as anything else I do for myself. Bubble baths are all very well, but expressing in my inner creativity is the best self-care there is.
So, yes the swimming metaphor is spent now but I think it reminds me that I spend a little too much time comparing my writing to others and I just need to focus instead on where I want to go.