March 29, 2013

In the Water

Once or twice a week, I swim laps at the Y. Here in California, we're lucky to not have harsh winters, so the heated outdoor pool is open year round.

Today was beautiful and warm, perfect for swimming. I let my mind roam free over this and that: my plans for the weekend, a friend's story I'm reading, the next scene I have to write. I worked out the flow for this blog post, which I've been meaning to write for a long time.

Sometimes I get in the pool with a specific writing problem to mull over. As I swim, I might set my mind to a difficult tangle of plotting or the question of where to set a scene. More often than not, by the time I've finished my half hour of laps, I have an answer. Or else it will come to me in the shower afterwards. Most of the good ideas I've ever had occurred to me in the shower. I'm convinced that ideas require water to grow.

There are no distractions in the water. There's nothing to look at except the pattern of light on the pool floor, and while that's pretty, it's monotonous. I have no task I need to perform except the automatic motions of swimming. I can't switch on a podcast or take my phone out of my pocket or click over to check Twitter. The water is the only place this happens, except for in bed when I'm trying to fall asleep, and then I'm supposed to be falling asleep. In the water, all I can do is think.

Christopher Gronlund linked to an article today about the constant distraction of smartphones and how they might be sapping our collective creativity. He often writes about distraction, and he makes a concerted effort to regularly disconnect. I'll admit that I don't really like disconnecting, at least not for long. But I do appreciate the time I spend alone with my thoughts in the water.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Chris Brecheen looks at the kind of advice writers receive and how to tell when good advice isn't: "Strangely inflexible advice is usually bad advice. Humans are a species with large genetic diversity and huge cultural diversity. There really is no version of a one-size-fits-all advice once you get past things like 'Drink enough water,' 'Avoid standing in fire,' or 'Don't text in the theater.'"


Christopher Gronlund said...

I like the points in the article, although the writer seems to blame technology for his distractions more than his compulsion to check things.

Yep, I like disconnecting at times, but your swimming analogy is good. For me it's juggling, walking, tennis, or just driving. I've found in recent years I don't listen to music that much when I drive because I like the sound of the tires on the road and thinking. (Or, I'll confess, talking to myself.) I've enjoyed the social media breaks I've taken, but the last break I took was just Facebook. I like G+ and Twitter much more. Tumblr, even. Facebook brings something out in some of the people I know. Like the article, it's not Facebook's fault, but it seems to attract the people I used to know who use it as a platform for ranting, instead of discussing cool ideas and sharing more positive things.

Swimming. It's something I haven't done for a long time, but it's definitely peaceful and a great place to think. There's something so soothing about water, whether it's swimming laps, half-floating under water, or listening to it slap against the side of a canoe. Love it!

Glad you had a good swim!

Lisa Eckstein said...

There's something so soothing about water, whether it's swimming laps, half-floating under water, or listening to it slap against the side of a canoe.

Just reading that sentence was soothing! For my dream house, it's a tossup between one on a peaceful lake that I could swim in and canoe on, or one overlooking the ocean so I could watch the waves all day while I write.

laurenhat said...

Yes, it's so hard to turn off the constant digital demands for attention! And I rarely want to. But I'm much more creative when I escape for a bit. The shower and the pool are both good places for it. Running to music works well for me, too.

Anna Scott Graham said...

A beautiful post. I can see you swimming, letting various notions float through your mind.

Lisa Eckstein said...

Lauren: Glad to hear that water fuels your creativity, too.

Anna: Thanks! I love that this post has inspired commenters to lovely turns of phrase!

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