Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our Fifth Lap

This post marks the fifth year since I leaped into the water and started wordswimmer.

During the first year I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write more than a paragraph or two each week, never mind month after month. It was the first lesson that I gleaned from blogging. Somehow, if I began to write, I would find the words to post. And out of that discovery came another: somehow, out of the words, new ideas and new stories would emerge.

Little did I imagine that I’d still be swimming five years later. But I'm drawn to the water today as much as five years ago. What pulls me back, like a tidal flow, week after week? My joy in exploring the mystery of the writing process, of course, but also my pleasure in finding other swimmers in the water with me. Somehow the circle of swimmers has expanded each year, and I’ve come to rely on this new community in ways that I could never have predicted before getting into the water.

Over the course of writing about writing, I’ve learned that not every writer likes to think about the writing process. Some prefer to let the words flow and avoid paying too close attention to how the process works. But I’ve found the more I think about how the process works–what’s driving the story, what’s compelling the reader to keep reading, and how the words make their way onto the page–the better I can grasp the way my own stories work (or don’t work). Each story that I read offers another key to how I might approach or envision my own story. And the comments other writers share in response to each post help keep me aware of the various issues that all of us grapple with–plot, characterization, voice, setting, tone, tense, point of view, fear of the page, reluctance to explore emotions, etc.–whether or not we think of them as we write. These are aspects of our craft that we can learn and refine by sharing our thoughts and learning from each other.

Of course, commenting on posts here at wordswimmer isn’t required. But I always appreciate hearing from readers, even if I don’t always offer a response. It’s not a formal class, after all, but an informal conversation that you’re welcome to contribute to if you feel the urge. If you do post a comment, you may find the process of thinking about how to express your ideas on a particular aspect of the craft helps you better understand it. But whether you post a comment or not, it’s simply good to know you’re in the water, too.

When I started blogging, lots of friends wanted to know why I blogged. What did I get out of it if I didn’t earn any money from the process? I think about this question often on days when I'm stuck for a topic and consider stopping, or when I wonder if I’m spending too much time on the blog and not enough time on my work. But then I realize this is my work. Writing. Trying to figure out a character’s motive. Wondering about words. Thinking about plots and rhythm and language. Immersing myself in stories.

So, I dive into the blog each week because in the process of writing, of setting down words, I find that I make discoveries that I’d never have made if I hadn’t taken the time and made the effort to put thoughts into words. In the process of blogging, I've discovered that words beget words, and these words can lead to new ways of seeing and understanding. Writing in this way isn’t just a means of communicating with others; it’s a means of self-revelation and discovery.

For all the unexpected gifts that wordswimmers have shared with me in the water over the past five years, I want to say thank you. I’m grateful to you for joining me here each week, and I look forward to swimming more laps with you in the weeks ahead.

For more information on writing as a process of self-discovery, visit:

And to learn more about the benefits of blogging, see:


Sharon said...

Congratulations Bruce! Can it really be five years? I've enjoyed swimming with you through them all. Here's to many more pool parties, olympic medleys, and long distance crawls.

Bruce Black said...

I'm a little bleary-eyed from thinking of all that swimming... but still grateful each time I get into the water.
Thanks for joining in some of those long-distance crawls.

peajayar said...

I've just started reading your blog and so far I like it a lot. Thinking, and occasionally writing, about writing and reading, does help my writing. I like what you say in 'Our Fifth Lap.' Clearly, there's a whole five years' worth of archive to dip (dive?) into.
And congratulations for weekly blogs. I struggle to do one a month. Maybe I'll be inspired!

Bruce Black said...

Many thanks for joining us in the water (even though it's a bit of a swim from New Zealand!). Hope you'll find something here that helps your writing.