Diving In

© Kari Helm

I was always that crazy toddler who ran full speed ahead of everyone else to jump off the end of the dock first. Of course, my parents were terrified I’d drown so their limbs were flapping wildly in the air as they tried chasing after me. The rest of my family would still be yards away, yelling at me to slow down, as the loud slap of my splash echoed after my risky dive.

What can I say? I was a daredevil.

It didn’t matter that I’d learned early on how to swim. My family was always paranoid with how much I loved water. Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t come out of my mother’s womb a mermaid. It’d probably have been less shocking.

But anyways…

Some of my earliest memories are of jumping off docks and taking long dives into the lake. Sometimes I’d do cannonballs or very poorly maneuvered back flips. Other times I’d just slowly walk until I ended up walking right off the dock. But I always fell without hesitation.

I guess you could say it was my trademark of sorts.

I started this strange habit long before I can accurately remember, but I can say that caution never entered my mind. I didn’t worry about river currents or lake depth. I never wondered about what kind of fish could gobble me up or whether there was thick seaweed to tangle in and pull me down.

I just jumped.

Looking back, my parents were right in being petrified of my actions. Every time they’d lecture me on being cautious and the need to watch out for one thing or another. Then the next time, when I continued to ignore them, they’d lecture me once again. At some point all their advice began to seep into my brain cells and, before I knew it, I began to take their warnings into account.

There wasn’t a specified date, time, or even moment when I started paying more attention to the environment around me but it happened as I slowly grew up. Even today I’m still known for dashing madly into the water but at least now I scan for sharp objects, the correct depth requirements, green gunk to get slimed by, and all that other hoopla that I should be more aware of. It’s not even something I consciously do, but I know I do it nonetheless.

It’s all a part of maturing.

Likewise, writing can be viewed in this same light.

I know I went off on a surgical tangent yesterday (as seen HERE), freaking out about pantsing and plotting – but, when it gets right down to it, a person’s writing habits reflects their growth as a writer. I may not like that I can’t sit down and whip out dozens of back to back chapters on a single story. But, that’s only because now I know the importance of pacing and character development. I now know that I can save myself a lot of editing by writing a really kickass rough draft (even if it’s still going to see a lot of red in the end anyways).

Yes, I was an amazing seat-of-your-pants writer at one time. But I’d like to think that I’ve become more cautious of possible threats. Like being able to sidestep a gaping plot error or stopping myself from introducing a major character three-fourths of the way into a book – these are both common threats I’ve avoided by taking more time to plan everything out. But that doesn’t mean I have to go overboard and over plan. I know it drives me insane to have every step fully detailed to the point that there’s no mystery left for me to figure out as I write. So, knowing that, I make sure I figure out the important need-to-know stuff and leave range for me to stick whatever else in the not-so-specifically-planned sections.

Because I’ve matured as a writer.

And it’s a wonderful thing to know that I can still maintain my natural enthusiasm but never have to worry about drowning – whether it be in a lake or a really bad plot.

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