Practice Makes Perfect, or How My Daughter Made a Swimmer out of Me

I’m the first to admit, I’m not good in the water. You know that little girl who sat on the sidelines clutching her stomach so she wouldn’t have to take the swim test? Yeah, that was me. Only I wasn’t faking. I was so nervous I literally was sick to my stomach. And then there was the time I went to beautiful Cozumel with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. We paid hundreds of dollars to go scuba-diving… except I never made it past the training exercises. Yep, me again, sitting on the sidelines, tears rolling down my face as I waited for my husband to come back from his underwater excursion. I had nightmares about drowning for six months afterward, no joke.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years, and imagine my dismay when I have a couple of children who love being in the water. This summer, in particular, my daughter begs me to take her to the swimming pool nearly every day. So what do I do when she looks at me with those pleading eyes? The answer, as every parent will attest, is simple: I grit my teeth and take her.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do know how to swim. I’m just not particularly good at it, and I never understood how I was supposed to get a good work-out when I was gasping for breath. But because I was already there, wet, and in a swimsuit, I found myself swimming laps during my daughter’s swim lessons. Day after day, I lugged myself across the pool, and then, a funny thing happened. On these scorching hot summer days, I actually found the feel of the cool water sluicing over my body… refreshing. Dare I say… enjoyable. What’s more, my stroke improved. Without the benefits of lessons or pointers or even conscious thought, I am becoming a better swimmer just by practicing. Imagine that.

Of course, I immediately drew the parallel to writing. How many times have we moaned about how we suck at writing synopses or plotting or revising or networking or (fill-in-the-blank)? How many times has this belief turned into an actual writer’s block? We may not have the guilt of parental obligation to prod us into action, but if we can get our butts in the chair, day after day, and practice the thing that we hate the most, we may surprise ourselves. We may find our abilities improving, and gasp!, we may even find that we’re actually enjoying ourselves. That’s the hope, anyway.

After all, if my daughter can make a swimmer out of me, then anything’s possible.

What is your Achilles’ heel (or swimmer’s ear, ha!) when it comes to writing? How has your ability progressed with practice? Have you ever found yourself enjoying something you were “supposed” to hate? I’d love to hear your stories, in writing or otherwise, so please share your thoughts!