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!

10 thoughts on “Practice Makes Perfect, or How My Daughter Made a Swimmer out of Me

  1. Wow. That is so wonderful, that you made doing good for your daughter into doing good for you! I like the idea of putting our butts in the chair and putting aside our fears. Very good!

  2. Thanks, Susan! I kinda think that butt in chair is the most helpful writing strategy I’ve heard.

  3. My downfall is the multi-tasking demon. I’m so used to doing it at work all day that it’s hard for me to sit down and focus on one thing.

    Good job on the swimming. A close friend of mine learned for the first time two years ago at the age of 28 – and the battle with our phobias about the water are hard to break. Good job!

  4. Robin, I’ve never heard of that — having trouble doing one thing versus multiple things. You must have amazing powers of concentration! Lucky for you, writing a novel is about balancing many different things at once — the craft of writing, telling a story, character development, etc, etc.

  5. Pintip, I am so proud of you! What a wonderful accomplishment.

    My big Achilles heel was a fear of heights. This doesn’t sound like a big deal for most people, just avoid heights, right? But when I was in college I volunteered for my local rescue squad, and you never know what you’re going to find when you get to a call. After a bad experience I signed up for a vertical rescue class to help me overcome my fear. On the first rappel I was terrified, especially when my belay man–who outweighed me by at least 150lbs–put all his weight on the line stopping me in mid-air and refusing to let me down until I went inverted. Yes, you heard me right–upside down! So I’m terrified but after about 15 minutes I finally stopped freaking out enough to do it–and guess what…it was kind of fun, in a terrifying, blood rushing through your veins, adrenaline junkie kind of way. By the end of the day I was invited to join a tri-county vertical rescue team. Crazy things can happen if you push aside your fear.

  6. Dana, what an amazing way to conquer your fear. You are so brave to confront your fear like that. I may swim a few laps, but you won’t catch me going scuba-diving voluntarily, not unless there was some serious cash on the line ( take for example, the Amazing Race; I would probably try to conquer my fear for that!)

  7. My phobia was heights–not so much being up high but falling. Go figure right? Well, I was assigned to the Division of Navy Sailing at the Naval Academy when I was enlisted in the Navy. One of my jobs at the time as a Storekeeper (supply)/jack-of-all-trades, was to be hoisted up the masts on some of the larger sailing vessels to repair/replace navigational lights, weather vanes, side-arm boots on the spreaders (the T crossings on the masts so the sails didn’t catch and rip). I was tied to the hallard lines and hoisted up with the main mast winch in a little diaper style chair, I clutched the mast the whole way up my first time. I was in Newport, RI for a regatta my first time and we were underway because the wind vane broke. What they didn’t tell me was that I also had to swing out and fix a boot that had come off and the jib (big pillowy sail) would rip if it wasn’t fixed. I had to push off from the main mast and sail out like Peter Pan to the end of a thin cable support and duct tape the boot into place!—Out over the bay–40 ft up in the air! I got used to it and would have fun sometimes doing the Peter Pan and repeling off the masts out into open air. Haven’t done parachuting yet–that was how my mom got over her fear years ago. But that’s another story. 🙂

    Good on you PinTip for conquering your fears!

  8. Loni, what an amazing story! Thanks so much for sharing. That does sound like fun, actually. Isn’t it neat how necessity will make us do things we’d never dream of doing? Unlike you and Dana, however, I haven’t conquered any fears, since my phobia is strictly the scuba-diving thing. I guess what I’ve really “conquered” is my dislike of the water, which is maybe more important on a day to day basis!

  9. Last year on vacation, hubby, son and I went to Disneyworld and decided to swim with the sharks. It sounded cool but when it came time to jump in, I freaked out! Until my then nine-year old son jumped in ahead of me. What was I going to do? Let my baby boy swim with the sharks without me there to protect him? Heck no! I jumped in on pure protective mommy lion adrenaline and it ended up being absolutely the best experience we had that vacation. I never dreamed I’d swim with sharks and a few years ago, I never dreamed I’d write a book, let alone three and counting!

  10. Carlene, What a lovely story! Isn’t it amazing what the protective mommy instinct will cause us to do? Once, a bee landed on my baby boy, and with my bare hand, I reached out, grabbed the bee, and crushed it between my fingers. Couldn’t let it sting my baby!

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