Sometimes when I slow down, when it’s a day when I’m not running ridiculously long trail miles, I feel sad. Not just sad but a bone-crushing grief that causes my stomach to ache and my chest to tighten and every breath to squeeze against my throat until I know it’s inevitable: I’m going to cry.
I’m in a scary place in my second novel, a vulnerable place, and because of this, and because I’m drawing on my own emotions, I feel fragile and breakable, as if all of my nerves are exposed.
It’s difficult maneuvering through the day in such a state. Without the barricade of my usual defenses, it’s easy to become hurt, to bump and bruise and fall. It’s easy to find myself sitting at my desk and weeping into the cat’s warm fur.
When I get like this, I swim. I dive into the pool at the YMCA, which is saltwater based, and open my eyes and watch the blue bottom of the pool move past. I don’t know why this soothes me but it always does. I swim a mile, sometimes two, and there’s something so elemental about water, so primal. Perhaps it reminds us of when we were in the womb, rocking back and forth in water, our limps restless and buoyant. Or maybe it’s because we evolved from the ocean and part of our genetic makeup will forever long for water and salt.
So I write. I cry. I swim. I write some more. It’s a slow and agonizing process but no one ever said that writing would, or should, be easy. And when I’m in a hard place, when my character is shaking and scared and I’m shaking and scared and know that I have to write us both through it, I sometimes go in the bathroom and hold my swimsuit up to my nose, the memory of my body gliding through that water so soothing that I feel, if not exactly blessed, at least a little bit stronger.