September 8, 2010 by Sarah D.
During summers when I was a kid, my friends and I played a water game called “running through water.” The object of the game was simple: race to see who could get from one end of the pool to the other first—by running, not swimming. (A dramatic lumbering, if we’re aiming for accuracy.) The race was rarely a hang-on-to-the-edge-of-your seat-nail-biter. Instead, we’d slowly push our bodies through the water that seemed to only want to hold us back.
Of course, one can’t swim through a novel—one can’t glide from side to side. As some of my former writing professors taught me, if it feels too easy it probably is. And easy writing rarely makes for good writing.
My novel has been progressing swimmingly. That is, until yesterday when a character of mine—let’s call her Gertie—acted out, began behaving in a way antithetical to what I had initially conceived. She leapt right out of the outline where I had neatly placed her, and she started acting like she had a point to prove, like she wanted to be the star. I tried stuffing Gertie back into her mold, screamed, “You’re ruining my outline, you little twit,” but alas—she wouldn’t budge. Times like these I feel I’m running through water. I can see the finish line— but it’s far away and still out of reach. The moving is slow-going. I’m tired. Just like the game “running through water,” it’s not really all that fun, and at points I stop to question why I’m even playing in the first place.
Here’s why I played “running through water”: I often won. Back then I was *the girl with thick glasses* or, more appropriately, the girl who *did not wear her thick glasses while in the pool*. Being without my specs meant that swimming was an exercise in sheer fuzziness, an exercise in trusting my other senses. I could never fully see that ledge when I was nearing it in the culminating moments of the race—I could only approximate its distance through my blurry vision, could only reach out my hand as I was trudging through the water and wait to feel the rough concrete beneath my pruned fingertips to know I’d made it. In some ways my poor vision gave me the advantage. I wasn’t always so obsessed with the distance of the finish line; I just knew when I reached it.