On wild swimming

Underwater.  From my Inktober 2017 project. © 2017 by Tim Warnes

Underwater. From my Inktober 2017 project. © 2017 by Tim Warnes

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
— Vincent van Gogh

Before I even began this blog, Resistance whispered that no one would want to read it.

That there wasn’t enough time; that I'd soon run out of things to say. And of course, Who the hell do you think you are to set yourself up as an authority on kids' books?!

Unfamiliar with Resistance? It's the negative thoughts that go around your head, telling you that you’re just not good enough. It's a mythical concept created by American novelist Steven Pressfield in his excellent non-fiction book, The War of Art. In it, Pressfield personifies the universal force acting against human creativity, and calls it Resistance. Once we identified, Pressfield argues, there is a power shift:

Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

- Steven Pressfield

So when I finally launched with my first blog post, it was with a degree of trepidation - an indicator that I finally had to start this work.

Of course, none of the nay-sayings of Resistance are good enough reasons not to begin. Why shouldn’t I leverage whatever position I have to promote kid lit and reading for pleasure? Rather than regurgitate other people’s opinions, I set out to express my own -  surely my experiences make them at least as valid as the next person’s? (The discipline of a weekly post is also helping me fulfil a goal of developing myself as a writer.)

Last week saw something of an upheaval in my world; this week I’m away with family - so I’ve had less time than usual in which to write. But I want to stick with the commitment I made to myself to post weekly - so today I shall share some writing from my personal journal.

The entries describe wild swimming in a mill pond at Hinton St. Mary in Dorset. (To begin with, I was a little fearful of that, too.)

The theme feels timely - last week I witnessed a friend’s baptism in the river at Wareham, after which a gang of us went canoeing and wild swimming. Yesterday was spent messing about on Coniston Water in Cumbria - with a brief landing on Peel Island (said to be the inspiration for Wild Cat Island in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons). Peel Island was, I suppose, a story seed of sorts for Ransome, who wrote that the island ‘was in the distant future to play its part in some of my books, and is still, in my old age, a crystallising point for happy memories.’

As Ratty so famously puts it,

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

View from kayak on Coniston Water, Cumbria. Photo © 2019 by Tim Warnes

View from kayak on Coniston Water, Cumbria. Photo © 2019 by Tim Warnes


Wild Swimming at Cut Mill

8 August 2018

Plunging into the cool water, a rush of bubbles and pea green water engulfs me.

Seeing the pond from water level brings a whole new dimension, as if swimming through a nature documentary. Across the still pond, around the far edge patch of reeds, past the arrowheads and through the native yellow water lilies. I fancy that, at any moment, an otter may appear.

I swam down - not so far, maybe five or six feet. The colour of the water darkened quickly from pea soup to deep khaki. As I resurfaced, the gradation was quite something, quickly lightening to the surface, where the last few inches became a soft rainy sky grey.


14 August 2018

I dived down again, hoping to see some fish, again with thoughts of otters on my mind. The water became surprisingly murky though; and after the showers of the last week moved at a more obvious pace. The slippery weir was louder and its water deeper and rushing, carrying silver bubble domes rapidly across the surface of the mill pond. I could feel the pull, too, of the river as it followed its course. …

At times I thought I glimpsed the shadowy form of a fish, but it was nothing more than the effects of dust motes in my eyes. I think another time I shall bring some goggles and really see how deep I can go.

 

Finally, some development art from I Love You As Big As the World by David van Buren (Little Tiger Press 2008).

It’s based on a time when I was snorkelling off the Dorset coast - I spotted a tiny periwinkle shell and dived down to collect it for Levi.

Development art for  I Love You As Big As the World  (Little Tiger Press). © 2008 by Tim Warnes

Development art for I Love You As Big As the World (Little Tiger Press). © 2008 by Tim Warnes


Sources

Resistance (creativity), Wikipedia

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield (Black Irish Entertainment 2012)

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS BY KENNETH GRAHAME (METHUEN 1926)

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