I always thought I would learn to swim one day. Watching others float gracefully in a pool or even seeing my own son playfully cut through the water like an otter made me envious. But it's not likely to happen in my lifetime. You see, I have a great fear of getting into the water.
Even though I was raised near the bayous of southern Louisiana where I was literally surrounded by water, learning to swim was never a priority. By the time I graduated high school I still saw no opportunity to learn and decided my life wouldn't be missing much by my lacking that particular skill.
I was wrong.
The summer I turned eighteen my Navy officer brother invited me to visit him in sunny California. He was stationed in San Diego and to a shy, small town girl, it was as close to a glamorous adventure as I'd ever hoped to see. The trip turned out to be an uneventful one until the day he invited one of his Navy buddies to come along with us as we spent the day at Coronado Beach.
I began that day having great fun as I dug my toes into the cool wet sand and chased the edges of the waves as they returned to the sea. It should have been a sweet memory to take home with me. My brother and his friend, on the other hand, thought it would be great sport to grab me and toss me into the ocean to see if I could make it back to shore on my own.
In one terrifying moment I went from listening to seagulls call out to each other high above me to finding myself face down in knee deep ocean water. Disoriented and choking on salt water, I didn't know where land was and nearly drowned before my brother and his friend stopped laughing enough to realize they needed to rescue me.
It's been a long time since that day, yet I've never overcome my fear of the water despite having a tremendous love and appreciation for the ocean. But if I ever did try to swim I imagine there would be three things I would learn to do first before I jumped into the deep end of the pool...
1. START SMALL
Children learn to swim by beginning to tread water and dog paddle. It's the small steps which help a person gain confidence while those small steps eventually add up to greater accomplishments.
2. KEEP PRACTICING
Swimming is like any other sport and it takes practice to get better at it. There are books on the science of the subject, places like the YMCA where lessons are taught, and swim groups where you can receive encouragement from other practitioners while you are learning to make it on your own.
3. HAVE FAITH
One day you are just going to have to let go of the flotation device and trust that you know what you are doing. To take a leap of faith and test the waters on your own, proving to yourself there's nothing to be afraid of.
Come to think of it, sounds a bit like becoming a writer, doesn't it?
Novice writers need to take those small steps of learning their craft, practicing their skill by writing every day, learning from those who came before them, and having faith in their ability to become stronger the longer they work at it. It doesn't happen all in one day. Just like learning how to swim.
Maybe one day I will learn how to swim for real but until then I'll concentrate on learning how to swim through the publishing waters until I make it all the way to the deep end...