Writing, Swimming and Islands

I’ve always wanted to live on the island. The island was way out there in the deep part of the lake. On the island lived the writers. I wanted to live with them, but I was afraid to get my feet wet. And so—staying on shore, I read about writers, about writing, and I imagined how wonderful it would be—some day. Every once in a while, I got brave and put my feet in the water. I sent out a little story or an article and when the rejection notice arrived, I quickly got back on shore and gazed wistfully back out to the island. The water was cold—just like I thought.

I’ve walked around the lake a few times now. I’ve gotten a view of the island from many sides. I’m slow, but I’ve finally figured out how to get to the island. You see, there’s no bridge, there’s no boat, and there’s no magic. You have to learn how to swim. And then, you practice and you practice and you practice. So, I took some lessons and discovered that I have a lot to learn. I will continue to take writing courses. But the most important part is I’m out there now—swimming. I mean—writing.

When I learned the technique of actual swimming I learned something else. I learned that the more I swam, the stronger I became. It got easier. I also learned different strokes. This variety in swimming helps keep me afloat. Trying different writing strokes keeps my writing afloat, too. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plain business writing, all involve putting word after word, stroke after stroke.

Swimmer’s cramp, or should I say, writer’s block, can happen at any time. This is not a reason to quit and if expected—doesn’t frighten. What does a swimmer do? A swimmer massages the pain and floats for a while. How does a writer float? I like the hammock method best myself…with a good book…letting my cramped mind float. Or, I use other muscles. Maybe I garden or shovel snow. Maybe I cook or de-clutter my closet. Forcing something that hurts to keep working doesn’t work for me. You see my thoughts are still writing—just not on paper. A swimmer who floats is still in the water.

Guess what? I’ve made it to the island. And, I’ve discovered that it’s empty. There are no living writers here. It’s no different than the shoreline I left behind. The living writers are all busy swimming in the water. Only their stories remain. Like snakes discarding too-tight skins, the writers have moved on.

You see, the island is only one of countless shores out there. One small success and then it’s on to the next island. It’s not the island that’s important—it’s the swimming. Being a writer is not a place or a noun. Being a writer is a verb—an action verb. To be a writer means you have to be out there writing. And, the more you write, the better you become.

Getting my feet wet was the hard part, but now that I’m out here, the water’s fine!

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