I can't swim. I hate having water in my face, and sometimes even watching other people underwater on movies causes me to panic slightly because I feel as if I'm drowning, even if the person on the screen isn't. I love water--on the shallow end. Hot tubs, showers, ocean waves, a quiet pool, the sounds, the feel...I'm actually a little obsessed. But I cannot swim, so there's a level of fear there. Not a fear of water per se, but a fear of failure IN that water. If I fail to swim when the water gets over my head, I die.
In a pinch, I might be able to thrash around and keep my head up until help comes. I could probably even float on my back once I got over the eerie, isolating sensation of cold water drumming in my ears as long as I managed to keep my legs up rather than trying desperately to touch bottom in the murky (or clear) water--at least with one big toe. However, I can never seem to find a rhythm in the depths. I can never find catharsis in a swimming pool or a lake, no matter how much I love the water or how much I want to swim with confidence. I can never feel the beautiful strain of muscles working from head to toe as I cut my arms through the cool, welcoming liquid and kick as if I have fins and not feet. I can never teach myself to blow water out of my nose below the surface, creating a bubble stream back to the top, where I will shortly reach for more air. I'm afraid of submersion. Again, afraid of failing in something so deep you can't see the bottom from the top.
Just as I long to work my muscles, pushing against the urge to just float there in the sun and wait for help, I long to write and work my mind. I want to go deep, so far into a character's mind and heart that there's no clue of which way is up or down. I want to push myself and find every little detail that can enrich a scene for my readers. Yet somehow that inability to just let go and write without inner criticism gets in the way. It's getting harder and harder to stick my head under the water and blow bubbles through my nose. It's getting harder to go down there to check out the life on the floor or even get a closer look at the bright white bottom of the pool. I'm afraid of failure here, too. Without successful writing, though, I'll die. It'll be a different sort of death than drowning in a lake, of course, since I probably won't actually stop breathing and my heart will go on beating. But it's death all the same.
My goal for this summer is to do more than flail around until help comes because life is in the way, or float on my back because it's easier to write solely on superficial topics than to really take the time to teach myself to come back down below the surface without panicking. I really enjoy writing about beauty and fashion, too, don't get me wrong (these topics pay the bills!), but I really want to go deep below the surface to inspect human emotion and personality, and to sculpt characters that you don't want to say goodbye to when you close a book after reading the final page.
Maybe I'll learn to swim this summer, too.