Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Meeting: Swimming Lessons

My oldest son loves to swim. It wasn't always that way. It took years of swim lessons to get him to just put his face in that water. But once he got the hang of it, he spent his summer days swimming with friends out in the middle of the lake. I'd call him in to apply more sunscreen, and then he'd high kick it back out into the water.

This past fall he joined the swim team. And I realized that, to no fault of his own, he hadn't mastered any of the technical aspects of any of the strokes. He hadn't been taught, even through years of swim lessons. I guess his teachers had been focused on just wanting him to float. On wanting him to be able to survive in the water.

This is where I think a lot of people come into writing. Loving it, knowing how to float, to move through the water, but not knowing enough to win a race.

My son struggled through swim team, and was one of a handful of kids who got an award for Most Improved. I was proud that he stuck it out.

We started swim lessons again, and he did well, but didn't want to ever do swim team again. Until he found that one coach. That coach who drilled him in the water like a sergeant, and didn't let him take an incorrect single stroke. Who watched over ever single scissor kick. That coach who demanded excellence. Who barked out her orders. My son stepped out of the water after one lesson with her, and proclaimed, "I'll do swim team again next fall."

I think we each have to be that swim coach for ourselves. We can rely on crit partners to a point, but we have to have the confidence in our ability to strive for technical prowess. And to seek knowledge until we get there. To always reach for the next perfect stroke of the pen.To yell at ourselves until our writing is streamlined and focused.

We're not just in this to play in the water, after all.

This week, I'm writing. How about you?

Today, @laurapauling started a great new TwitterGame, with the hastag #badquerytips. Come share your serious (and funny) tips. And, on Laura's blog, she gives us some twitter pitfalls to avoid!


  1. I just love this comparison! You're right that if you want to take your writing to the next level, you have to start mastering all those little technical things. Writing that way stops being as purely fun as floating, but it's rewarding in a different way.

  2. Great metaphor. That makes sense to me and might be just what I needed to hear today. :) Thanks.

  3. Great story, and congrats to your son for not giving up.

  4. Swimming is a great analogy to writing. And funny that your son loves the swim team. My daughter had been taking swim lessons for years and is a good swimmer. Last summer I had to practically force her to join a swim team. Of course she loved it and joined a fall/winter team and will be on the high school swim team next Fall.

    This week I won't be getting that much writing done because of swimming. She has a meet Thursday night and again all Sunday afternoon. Glad your son stuck with it too. Get ready to be really busy with it.

  5. Great comparison. I'm glad your son found inspiration to keep at it!
    And badquerytips has been so funny today!

  6. I love the story! And I've promised myself I cannot participate in the twitter fun until I'm done with's been a great motivator...I'll keep you posted on progress!

  7. Hi Heather,

    A great analogy. Well said. My youngest daughter joined a swim team at age 16, thanks to the encouragement of an elderly coach, Sarge, an ex-marine. Sarge took the time to teach her how to swim with her face in the water and how to breathe, how to do each stroke. It was a godsend since we'd just moved and she needed a new place to fit in. Your post sure brought back a lot of memories.

    Thank you for your comments and advice that you left on my blog. I have no idea if the replies I leave to people's comments will get back to them or not, so I thought I better leave a comment on your blog. I need to try that advice from Elana Johnson's blog from the link you suggested, so hopefully people will get my replies.

  8. What a fabulous analogy :) I definitely started out "floating" and able to make it from one end of the lane to the other. It's taken me two years to get to where I am now, with a better understanding of each stroke. And I'm sure I have a long way to go still...

    I'm writing this week too!

  9. When my kids switched from "swim lessons" to swim team there was a huge difference. The racing style is different from the casual strokes. A very apt comparison! And thanks for the link. :)

  10. It's so key to have that confidence in yourself...both for swimming and writing. For some people, it comes from the knowledge that they know how to do it after learning and practicing all those skills. For others, it might be just knowing that they aren't going to sink!

  11. Anna--I agree. It feels good to know. But when you know a little, you realize how much more there is to learn. And then you just have to jump in! Glad you're coming to NESCBWI!!

    Tina--I am so glad!!

    Kate--I know, he's a trouper!

    Natalie--Swimming can be a very time consuming sport! (For the moms as well). I'm glad that we're in a long break right now, and that it won't pick up until the fall. And what fun the swim meets are!!


    Kelly--badquerytips was AWESOME!

    Anita--Get back to revising! We want you in the game!

    Lynn, you have a lovely and funny blog. I would also be happy to walk you through twitter. My email is hegkelly at gmail dot com, if you have a specific question. :)

    Sara--A "better understanding of each stroke"--Love that. It shows how patient and focused on the details we must be in our writing.

    Laura--My pleasure to link--awesome game of yours today!! My son had to relearn how to swim--a tough thing to retrain his body to do. I'm glad other parents saw the difference in swim style. We're all in the same boat. LOL

    Andrea--Love your comment. Especially "For others,it might be just knowing that they aren't going to sink!" I think that is what my crit partner did for me early on--bolstered me up until I had that confidence for myself. Thanks for stopping and commenting!

  12. I love this twitter game you guys are playing. I saw a couple of funky advice tweets before I finally noticed the funny hashtag. Awesome!