I grow amused that I don’t play blue more regularly in Magic the Gathering, given how magical (!) swimming is proving to be for me this summer.
Over the course of the spring, I’ve been struggling with an idea for a new novel. Having the basic idea wasn’t a problem — oh, I had settings and characters aplenty, but plot? That wasn’t showing up for anything, not even if I left out cookies. I couldn’t connect all my pieces or explain why these people were doing what they were doing.
But then the pool opened for the season and I started swimming at night. Steady laps, then floating about, watching the clouds or stars overhead. Mars and Saturn have been playing chase, and the Big Dipper has been hanging out, too.
And as I swam, something magical started to happen. The book started talking to me. Every time I went to the pool, I found another bit of the world I was building. Tuesday night as I pulled through the often-mothy water (those moths love to dive bomb right into the light!), I started thinking about boats, which lead to thoughts of other transportation and technologies. What would this world support?
It shouldn’t be a surprise; I’ve always loved swimming. My mom claims I taught myself, and I actually cannot remember anyone else teaching me, so maybe she’s right… I remember plenty of summer’s spent in apartment pools, though, and flimsy wading pools, and inflatable pools with bumpy bottoms. I remember waiting for pools to fill, and watching the grass flatten when we’d empty them. Diving for stones and dimes, spitting in masks so they wouldn’t fog up, doing underwater handstands. Cannonballs.
Island Lake was, and probably still is, one of the best places to swim or float. I can still recall the mossy slip of stones under my feet, and the way water lilies would glide past legs as my cousin and I floated in inner-tubes out to the island. I remember the strange way the dock bobbed on currents, and how hot the wood was after spending an afternoon in the lake water. I suspect this lake did a great deal to foster me writing at all; what the heck WAS that down there…just lilies and vines or something else? (Something else, according to “Island Lake,” found in The Beastly Bride.)
Water is somewhat notorious for being conducive to ideas; I know plenty of writers who say characters show up when they’re sitting in the tub or showering. So floating in a dreamily-lit pool with the entire universe sprawling out above… Hmm, that should work.
Characters and plots rarely show up when we want them to; they don’t operate on deadlines, even if writers and editors do. Most stories come in their own time and in their own way; while I think I have a basic process, I’m not sure I actually write any story or book the same way I wrote the one prior.
But a lot of my work does have water in common. This summer might well get labeled “The Summer I Wrote My Book In the Pool.” If only someone had mastered a waterproof notebook and pen set.
As to playing more blue in Magic… I definitely need to try that.