I spent most of the last year and a bit writing a novel. To stop myself contracting that well-known condition 'writer's arse', I made myself go swimming twice a week, a quick(ish) twenty lengths at Wednesday lunchtime, and thirty lengths (going up to forty lengths more recently) on Saturday morning. That's not a lot of exercise, I know, but more than I have done for a long time. And I am not a strong swimmer, nor a technically proficient one. My breaststroke is ragged and my front crawl raggeder.
I admit that I didn't always manage both of my twice-weekly swims. The mid-week lunchtime session was the one in most danger of being dropped, especially as I approached the end of the novel, and the deadline. Sometimes, I just couldn't allow myself the time away from my desk.
As I swam I often thought about the book I was working on. Not in any useful way. I did not attempt to resolve any tricky plot issues, or sketch scenes in my head. No point really, as I wouldn't have been able to jot down any good ideas that came to me. It's hard to swim with a notebook in one hand.
No, I would just think about the process of writing, and I would carry with me a sense of where I was in the writing of the book, and somehow I would relate that to the act of swimming. So that it almost felt like I was swimming my book.
I would always compare where I was in the writing, how far I was from the end, to where I was in the day's swim, and how far I was from my target number of lengths. When I was more or less halfway in the book, I would get a special sense of harmony with myself when I hit the mid-point of my swim.
My ability to finish the lengths I set myself encouraged me to believe that I would be able to finish the novel.
Now I'm working on the edits of my novel, and there isn't really any analogous phase in a swimming session; except perhaps if I swam an extra length or two after I'd reached the day's target.
I confess I nearly didn't make it to the pool today. My desire to just get the edits done nearly won out. The fact is, I don't really enjoy swimming. It's the same kind of drudgery as writing a novel.
What I enjoy more than swimming is having swum. In the same way, I suppose, I find having written far more satisfying than writing.
And yet I am determined to persevere in both.