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Why NaNoWriMo is Like Swimming

on November 6th, 2011 by Shannon

As you may have guessed from the title, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. It’s not my first time; I took part (and won) 4 years running, beginning with 2005. Then last year I took a break. My dad had just passed away and I wasn’t feeling particularly creative. Instead, I focused on rewriting a manuscript I had been sitting on.

Long story short, this year I’m back and finding the experience much different from my first few times.  This year, I’m finding NaNo to be much like getting into a swimming pool. 

And the pool is cold.

I mean, it is freezing. I circled it a couple of times, trying to psych myself into just jumping in. I came SO CLOSE – and then I backed off. Maybe it’s better to just dip my toes in a little, thought I. But all that did was make my toes numb and scare me even further.

So finally I just took the plunge and started typing, er, swimming. I was rusty at first, I’ll admit. I hadn’t swum in a long time, and I wasn’t really comfortable. I walked around on my tiptoes, holding my hands above my waist to keep them warm. I was sort of just scoping out the pool, trying to get my bearings. Figuring out where the exits were. Trying to calculate how close to hypothermia I could come and still be able to drag myself up over the side.

Then yesterday a wonderful thing happened. The water got warm. Or I got warmed up. And I realized, hey, look at this beautiful swimming pool I’ve got! It’ s Olympic size! And I’ve got it all to myself. I can do whatever I want! So I splashed and I played. I did somersaults, and scissor kicks, and handstands, and played Marco Polo. Okay, that one was a little difficult by myself, but so what? The point is, it was marvelous.  A whole pool to stretch out in and explore.

In a word, it felt luxurious.

I know that by next week, I’ll probably have to think about swimming laps. After all, I’ve only got this pool for a month, and I’m going to have to use it wisely if I want something to show for it at the end. Firm thighs; a rough draft. And I know that the laps are going to get harder, going into week 3. But I also have this feeling that I’m going to be able to pull it off, as long as I keep swimming. Just keep pulling myself through that water. It gets easier once you get a rhythm going.

And then, around week 4, I’m looking forward to that big rush of adrenaline, that final kick off the back wall that’s going to push me toward the finish line. I’ll pull myself out of the pool and hold up my hands in victory! Even with the pool still empty, even with no one there to cheer, I’ll still hear the whistles and applause in my head. This I know, because I’ve been here before. There is no other feeling quite like finishing the last line of a first draft.

Everything after that will be a let down. I’ll have to leave the pool before someone starts snapping me with towels. And don’t even get me started on the revisions. If NaNo is a swimming pool, then revisions are a murky pond.

But that’s another post.

For now, this NaNo, I invite everyone to revel in the luxury of their very own swimming pool, knowing that every splash, every kick, every lap is carrying you all that much closer to victory.

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