You can’t swim if you’re not in the water

I have never been the “jump-in-with-both-feet” kind of swimmer. Deep water–especially lakes and rivers where I couldn’t see bottom–always freaked me out. I didn’t like not knowing what was down there. I didn’t like not knowing what my feet would hit or having it be different from what I expected. In pools, I didn’t want to be “shocked” by the frigid water. I didn’t want to be enveloped all at once. So, I would dip toes in. Then feet. Then ankles. Legs… you get the point. Slowly, I worked my way in. Once submerged, of course, I didn’t want to get back out. I would think how silly it was that I resisted just diving in all at once. The end result would be the same, and all the anticipation of edging myself in didn’t really help any. But it was just my way, I suppose.

Here lately, I can’t even get the very tips of my toes “in the water” in terms of my writing.

Maybe I’m still recovering from the holidays and the craziness of having the kids home all day every day for two solid weeks. Maybe I’m still basking in the afterglow of winning NaNoWriMo (finally!). Maybe I’m just hitting a slump. Whatever the reason, I haven’t written since November.

I intentionally gave myself a break for December. With the holidays and my younger son’s birthday, I was realistic about my time limitations. Plus, I thought I deserved some time to slack off a bit. I basked in some glorious time off work. I played with my boys and baked cookies and slept late and snuggled watching movies and playing video games. I indulged in lots of pleasure reading. But I didn’t write a bit, and I didn’t let myself feel guilty. When January came, I would be back to it.

But, now it’s January. As of this week, we’re at the “halfway” point, and still nary a word has been written by yours truly.

I was so excited at the conclusion of November because I had so much material to work with. It was great to know that I didn’t have to stress myself out about generating new material for a while and could just focus on working with what I already created. There are at least four or five stories I am really excited to have written. One of them is haunting me almost daily because it was such a great experience writing it. One of those times where the words just came out faster than I could type and it all just sort of felt like it was writing itself. I’ve even come up with some tweaks I want to make and some solid revision ideas. But so far, that’s all they are. Ideas. Floating around in my head.

There’s a part of me that is honestly scared to open that document. There’s a part of me that thinks that I’ll start rereading what I wrote and realize it’s all crap. That it won’t be what I’m remembering.

I actually had a dream last night where three friends and I were “auditioning” to spots in this prestigious summer writing program (that doesn’t exist). We submitted portfolios of our work to famous (although in the dream unidentifiable) authors, and they would write back feedback and a decision about our admission. The three friends (two of whom don’t even write normally but were participating as a lark) received back their portfolios in less than an hour with glowing feedback and instant admission. Mine? The secretary who gave it to me rolled her eyes. I opened it up and written in huge, permanent black letters were the words, “Were you serious with this?” And that was it. Could there be any more of a flashing neon sign about my confidence level? Yikes.

So, I keep avoiding the reality of that document. I keep pretending that the way I’m remembering those stories and the writing is reality. Don’t be fooled. I do realize that there are oodles of craptastic writing in that document. I’m realistic enough to know that a sizeable portion just needs to be deleted. But what if the stories I’m remembering fondly aren’t so great after all either? What if the characters or plots that continue to resonate with me days, weeks, later aren’t what I’m remembering? And what if I can’t make them what I want them to be–what I am envisioning them to be?

Sometimes, writing is a scary thing.

Just like deep water.

But, I’m going to do it. Even if I have to do it one toe at a time, I’m going to dive into the pool of those stories. And when I do, I’m going to try not to beat myself up for how long it took. Instead, I’ll just start swimming.

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