Writing While Swimming

ID-100162643I have decided to exercise regularly in 2015. The treadmill in the den is too easy to walk away from when inspiration strikes. Not so with swimming – once you’re in the water it’s hard to walk away and immediately start typing.

Oh, and in the cause of precision, when I say “regularly”,  I should say “frequently” and certainly “irregularly”. But often. Honest.

Let’s move on…

I must own up. I find swimming boring. Eyes on the far end and get closer, closer, closer… Reach it, turn, repeat. You either shut down mentally or store as many thoughts as possible for later use.

When I was a kid in post-war Britain, the local pool was Victorian, erected around the turn of the 19th century for those without baths in their homes but with a few coins to spare. I remember there were foot-baths, a primitive form of shower unit, basically a floor-level sink for a “standing wash”. These were for local workers who wanted a wash, but who choose not to exercise in an unheated pool – probably as they were worn out by their labors.

So here’s the criticism. I remember the signs posted around the pool:

  • No running
  • No diving
  • No bombing
  • No kissing
  • No touching
  • No…

You get the picture. That was post-war Britain. “NO” was normal. But that was then. The old building has been upgraded to a spa including a heated pool, sauna, tanning rooms and, of course, a hefty membership fee. So a public utility for the poor has become a playground for the middle class. I guess that’s an advance for a consumer society.

By contrast, my local “Aqua World” is a modern, purpose-built luxury amenity with multiple heated pools, sauna, tanning rooms and, of course, a hefty membership fee. But no notices saying, “NO”.

Many writers’ blogs suggest exercise as a way of overcoming writer’s block. I was in two minds. Time away from the working focus of my computer desk always seemed like a negative move.

But… I must admit I enjoyed my first visit. And it was fruitful. Having nothing else to think about except “swim, turn, repeat” did free my thoughts. I solved a half-dozen sticky plot points as I swam, turned and repeated. As General MacArthur said, “I came through and I shall return.”

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4 comments on “Writing While Swimming

  1. Definitely an advance for a consumer society… sounds positively dreamy to me. But then I was a competitive swimmer in my youth and I still enjoy swimming when I get the chance. Luckily, there is a pool where I live so the “NO’ for me is no payment and that makes it even more enjoyable:) I think when you get the hang of it, Andy, you’ll be writing in the pool…I do it all the time, just without the requite pen and paper. The trick, at my age, is remembering it long enough to commit those words/ideas to paper once I get back to my computer:) NO joke!!!!

    • Yes, remembering it is the trick. If I leave my work-space and go downstairs for a few minutes, I often have a plot-development or block-breaker thought, but it’s gone by the time I get back to my keyboard. Perhaps for the pool I should use a waterproof, voice-activated dictation device strapped to my cheek? 😉

  2. I’ve long been a regular exerciser, and get inspiration when when I’m working out. I’ve found that when I get a really good idea, I’ll either remember it or think it up again. I’ve gotten ideas that I’ve rushed directly to the computer for, only to find that they’re not as good as I thought when the flash first came to me.

    • I regard ideas as only hints at what to write. I admit to a high drop-out rate when I can focus better and my mental filters cut in. But some great “hints” are lost beyond recovery. Stray thoughts get harder to remember as the years pass…

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