WRITING WELL 1 - hydra subdued

by Susan Weber

It’s been over a year since I stood at the edge of the writing well and turned my back on Hydra, the many-headed serpent of distractions. I needed time to write. The consensus of trusted advisors is that my writing has improved. Now I need to find more time — for writing and for testing the waters of publication. To that end, I'm lopping off some heads.

Ancient myth makers gave Hydra a juicy part, with breath and blood so potent, one whiff could kill you. The water serpent was stationed at the portal to the underworld, exactly where distractions tend to snort their halitosis at a writer’s tender nostrils. With pen poised to penetrate the mysteries of the human condition (including the fate of authors seeking publication), I’m assaulted by Facebook memes, pundit tirades, and satirists mocking the civilized world. I grind my pen like a cigarette in the white ash of inspiration.

So I’ve made some resolutions vis-à-vis the snake. Deactivate Facebook. Done. Avoid the hyperventilating news. Also done. I’ll miss the comedians most, but they’ll be fine without me. With no more fanged maws chomping at my heels, I'll hazard the deeper dive.

This morning I was swimming in a high school pool, well into my solo workout. I hadn’t noticed the team come in. Approaching the far wall underwater, I saw youthful legs and torsos, four or five swimmers to a lane. They clung to the side of the pool like barnacles to the hull of a stalwart ship. This school keeps the water cold; I pitied the shivering swimmers as I pushed through the arctic deep. Flip-turning at the wall, I left them suctioned in place awaiting their coach’s send-off. As I reached the shallow end, they were off and overtaking me, their arms churning, shoulders rolling, legs pumping, feet sluicing. Bubbles flumed around them. The energy of usefulness was palpable, sweeping me into its concourse.

Hydra lurks above the prize of intuition and knowing, snapping up the pleasures of the easily impressed. But I think when we risk the underworld, we find great hordes of water lovers doing the same. That’s my working theory of this writing well. Until I come up with another one, it will have to do.

Public Domain painting by John Singer Sargent