Friday, March 15, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

A writer’s journey is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to accept critiques (some gentle, some harsh) of work you’ve labored over for months and years. You must have the fortitude to slice and dice your beloved work, casting aside characters and threads your creative mind has nurtured. You must have the patience to wait and wait and wait some more. And you must trust the process and your own voice enough to pick yourself up after every rejection and try again.

So why do I keep writing? That’s easy. I have to. If I go a week without writing, I get very cranky. It’s not pleasant. But ask any writer, and they will tell you the same. We write because we love writing. We love the process, the creativity, and the sense of accomplishment of finding the perfect words to give our imaginations a voice. 

A better question is how do you keep writing? That answer is as unique as the writer you ask. I have an arsenal of coping techniques I utilize after a harsh critique, tough day of revising or painful rejection.

Here are my top 10:

1. Consume my weight in chocolate.

2. Exercise, which is necessary after completing #1. I prefer karate (what better way to de-stress than being encouraged to punch, kick and scream)

3. Reread the positive critiques I’ve received on writing projects 

4. Lose myself in a favorite book

5. Plan a vacation, even if it is not in my present budget or immediate future

6. Did I mention consume my weight in chocolate? Yes? Well it bears repeating.

7. Call Mom & Dad for a pep talk only my parents can deliver

8. Dive headfirst into a different writing project for a spell

9. Spontaneous dance party with my sons

10. Read inspirational quotes and stories. 

One such story, which I keep in my writing folder and read often, is the story of Florence Chadwick.

Focused on the Goal
Her goal was the California coastline --a 34 km swim from Catalina Island. It was no more distant than the width of the English Channel, a goal she had already conquered as the first woman to swim it from both directions. Although she was a seasoned long-distance swimmer with incredible stamina, she trained arduously to prepare herself to achieve her goal.

July 4th, 1952
Millions watched on national television, as 34 year old Florence Chadwick began her swim. The water was icy cold; the fog -- so thick she could hardly see the support boats alongside her. As the hours passed, she was repeatedly stung by jellyfish. Sharks had to be driven away with rifles. Yet she pressed on, determined to achieve her goal.

15 hours later
Numbed with the cold, she was ready to give up. Her mother and her trainer were in a boat at her side. "Florence. You are almost there. Don't give up now." Encouraged by her mother's admonition, she continued to swim.

Fifteen hours and fifty minutes after she began her swim, the support team reluctantly agreed to pull Florence from the water. Several hours later, after she warmed up, she realized she had given up only a few hundred meters from her goal! If she had continued just a little while longer, the waves would have carried her to the beach. "If I could have just seen the land for myself, I would have made it!". She told reporters it was not the sharks, the fatigue, or even the cold water that defeated her. She had been defeated by the fog alone. It had obscured her goal and blinded her reason, her eyes and her heart.

                                                 Never give in to defeat.
1952 was the only time Florence Chadwick ever quit. Two months later she swam that same channel. The water was still ice cold and still inhabited with sharks. Once again fog obscured her view. But this time she pressed on, BELIEVING that somewhere beyond that fog, her goal would be reached. Not only was she the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, but she beat the men's record by two hours!

 I love this story. It sums up the writing/publishing process. There are supporters, who follow and encourage the writer, but ultimately she swims alone.  The journey is long and exhausting.  As she pushes forward, rejections sting, and nay-sayers circle. Doubt, cold and heavy, stalks her every stroke, until at last, she believes the shore unreachable.

But she must keep swimming.

And you must keep swimming.

The shore may be closer than you think.

I warned you of my Disney obsession. I made the above Nemo banner this summer.
It hangs in my 8th grade classroom as a constant reminder for my students and me to
Just Keep Swimming!

No comments:

Post a Comment