Published 6 April 20111 June 2012 · Main Posts The next breath Claire Zorn I am not a sporting person. Some people are born with the ability to catch balls with their hands as if they have an in-built homing device. I, it would seem, was born with such a homing device in my head. If I enter a park and there is someone, somewhere within a two-kilometre radius throwing a football – or whatever it is you’re supposed to do with them – I can guarantee that said football, sooner or later, will hit me in the head. Thus whenever I have attempted to ‘play’ a sport I usually spend the whole time shielding my face with my hands, something which impedes ones ability to ‘play’ somewhat. Some years ago, however, I discovered a sport of sorts which suits me perfectly. Swimming. The beauty of swimming is you don’t have to interact with anybody or anything except the water. You literally immerse yourself in it. No talking to anyone. No-one shouting ‘butter fingers!’ at you. You even get to wear a disguise: goggles and a latex cap, which transform one into a sort-of insect cross Peter Garrett. (Don’t worry, Overlanders, I’ll get to the bit about writing soon. Threw in that semi-political reference to keep you going.) The key to swimming, especially freestyle, is patience. You have to be patient when it comes to breathing. You can’t worry about it too much and you certainly can’t let the word ‘drowning’ come into your head. You just have to keep swimming. As a swimming coach once said to me, swimming is ninety percent mental and ten percent physical. The more I commit myself to writing, the more I discover it is like swimming. It is about waiting for the next breath, head underwater, submerged in one’s work, battling to keep the word ‘drowning’ out. Recently I wrote – sorry, blogged – about my struggles with Twitter. I said it wasn’t for me. Since then, my followers (all sixteen of them!) may have noticed that rather then abandoning Twitter, I have began to use it more and more, mainly because it provides me with a sense of camaraderie. I am now constantly reminded that this whole writing caper can be a darn hard slog. For everybody. ‘Why all this nauseating self-reflection?’ you may ask. Well Overlanders, in my last post I revealed I had been shortlisted for a certain writing fellowship. The comforting prospect of winning said fellowship has been with me for the last two months, like the promise of the next breath when one’s lungs are empty and one’s head has been under the water for too, too long. Despite promises to myself that I would tell no-one, I found myself mentioning it to every man and his dog. (No really, I mentioned it to a very enthusiastic Border Collie just the other day.) I found I was using this almost-success as a sort of validation when explaining to folk what I ‘do’, especially as I am convinced that when people hear the words ‘I’m a writer’ they mistake it for ‘I’m a wanker’. Lest to say, and you probably saw this coming, I didn’t get the fellowship. I allowed myself one hour of crying while listening to Regina Spector’s ‘Man with a thousand faces’. (A vast improvement on the last time I was rejected which saw a four-hour tanty to the sound of Kim Wild’s seminal hit, ‘You don’t really love me, you just keep me hanging on’.) It felt like I had come up for breath only to discover I had mistakenly swum into a water polo match. Smack, right in the face. (I can’t guarantee I’ll stop thrashing the metaphor anytime soon. Sorry.) I then contemplated giving up the whole writing caper and getting a real job, you know, one of those ones with a work cubicle and a pay cheque. Problem is, if I had a real job, I’m not sure when I’d get any writing done. So instead I will hang onto the snippet of ‘success’ that comes from being shortlisted. I will take comfort in the fact that upon reading my work, the administrators did not burst into hysterics and toss it into the bin, later patting their enormous stomachs, sucking on cigars and sniggering about the piece of rubbish they were forced to read. (Fairly sure the good people of Varuna aren’t morbidly overweight cigar-smoking megalomaniacs, but that’s the way these things go whenever I imagine anyone reading my work.) And I will keep writing. Because, as novelist Jean Bedford once told my writing class, it can be horrible and heart-breaking, but it’s the only thing I know how to do. Claire Zorn Claire Zorn is a Sydney-based writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in various literary journals and she has a particular passion for writing young adult fiction. More by Claire Zorn › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202311 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the final day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s most important members get to have their say Editorial Team BORIS A quick guide to another year of Overland, from your trusty feline, Boris. I liked the ginger cat story, though it made my human cry. I liked the talking cat, too, but I’m definitely in the “not wasting my time learning to talk” camp. But reading is good. 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