Monday Writing Motivation: Swimming under the gibbous moon

 In How to write a book, Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog

On Saturday ten days ago, Trish and I set out for Box End Lake. We were taking part in our 24-hour relay swimming marathon. Our team was eight strong. This meant that over the course of 24 hours, from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, each of us would have to swim for three one-hour stints. This week’s Monday Writing Motivation: Swimming under the gibbous moon explores the mysterious connections.

The lake is a large one, fed by fresh springs, so the water is clear and clean. We set up our tent and waited for all the other members of the team – we call it Wet and Wild – to assemble. Then we worked out who was going to swim when.

At the moment in our part of England, the sun sets at about 7:30 p.m. and rises at 6:30 a.m. so each of us would have one night swim sandwiched in between two swims by daylight.

Monday Writing Motivation: Swimming under the gibbous moon

We had only met the members of the team once before – but we were committed to a single mission – to raise as much money as we could for Level Water, the charity that had arranged the relay, one of many they hold across England every year to support swimming lessons for disabled children.  (Many of you gave generously after my appeal two weeks ago.)

We were one of many teams. A couple consisted of just two members – who were swimming turn and turn about for the complete 24 hours. But each team developed a sense of camaraderie, a sense of itself as a unit with a common aim. In short, a community, albeit for a very limited period, and with a single purpose in mind.

My first swim was scheduled for six in the evening. By the greatest of good fortune, the week leading up to the relay had been the hottest of an indifferent summer. The water of the lake was if not tepid, then actually quite bearable.

The course was a triangular one. Each side of the triangle was about 150 metres long. I had no idea how many circuits I’d manage in my hour. Those who’d gone before me had swum either three or four circuits. One over-enthusiastic youngster managed eight.

I wondered whether I’d complete one.

But the water was wonderful and I found myself at the first buoy sooner than I expected. I completed the first circuit in twenty-five minutes, and the second in only a minute or two more.

Swimming is a solitary activity – like writing.

You immerse yourself in what is to all intents and purposes another dimension, in which gravity is counteracted by the force of the water holding you up. When you sink into your story, you are in a quite similar fashion entering another dimension – a dimension in which the gravity of what’s real gives way to the whims and fancies of your imagination.

Both swimming and writing can also be lonely pursuits.

My second swim was scheduled for two in the morning. It was still warm, but the organisers recommended we don wetsuits, and so, wet-suited up, and tethered to a small float to which, for safety reasons, a light had been attached, with another clipped to my swimming cap, I set off into the dark. Ahead, on the farther side of the lake, was the first of the buoys, festooned with lights to guide us through the night.

There is something mysterious and luxurious about swimming in open water at night. When I turned for the second leg of the circuit, I caught sight for the first time of the gibbous moon, swimming, like me, not in water, but in the lightest mist which created a glowing nimbus around it.

A small squadron of kayakers redirected us when we went off course (which I, swimming backstroke for the most part, frequently did), and offered greetings, encouragement and advice.

When I staggered from the water at the end of my second hour, three of my fellow team members were there to offer help, towels and congratulations.

My final swim took place in mid-morning on a fine day. I remember a couple of months before when the project was first mooted, my response had been one of doubt and denial.

Now, having completed my third swim, I tucked into an egg and bacon bap that Trish had arranged and basked for a moment in the glow of my unlikely achievement.

And it struck me that while swimming, like writing, is both lonely and arduous, it is so much more within our reach when we have friends and partners to cheer us on.

Happy writing,

Richard  – who, without the support and encouragement of Trish, Caroline, Kim, Laura, Larissa, Charlie and Beccy and, indeed, all of those who generously helped us reach and surpass the targets we’d set ourselves, could not have done it.

PS –  It’s not too late to donate to the cause. It doesn’t matter how little the amount – lots of little bits, as last week’s Monday Writing Motivation demonstrates, gets you to your destination. It’s easy. If you’d like to contribute to our fundraising efforts for Level Water, just click here. I’d so love to raise just a little more towards swimming lessons for children with disabilities.

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At All About Writing, our passion is nurturing writers to embrace their craft. Because of that, we offer many free writing resources for beginning writers up to multi-published authors. 

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