Thursday, June 11, 2015

Underthink It

Zestful Blog Post #110

If you joined us last week and read my post about undertaking YMCA lifeguard training, you might be pleased to know that I passed the water-skills test and was accepted into the program. My classmates and I received our official rescue packs (photo below), yay.

A particular thing happened during training that I want to share, because it bears on a creative life. Forgive the training details, but there is a point.

[In here you keep your breathing mask and gloves. Photo by ES.]

Everyone in my class is 16-18 years old except me. (My birth date is a matter of public record but I wish it weren’t.) Our instructor is a veteran lifeguard and aquatics manager. One evening we were in the pool practicing water rescues, using a piece of equipment called the rescue tube. This is a thin, flexible float with a strap that you keep slung over your shoulder all the time you’re on duty. In an emergency, you can swim out and use it to help you rescue someone. We learned how to approach a facedown victim and flip them faceup while at the same time rolling the person onto the tube so you can start rescue breathing and tow them in.

This is not easy. I tried and tried to get my ‘victim’ onto the tube but she’d (we’re all females in this class, thankfully for the teenage hormone factor) slip off, or I’d be unable to sink the thing enough to wedge it under her past her neck. Our instructor kept coaching me, but I couldn’t do it. I kept trying to remember each micro-step of the process, which we learned in the classroom, and applying them one by one. Everybody else got it after one or two tries. I worried that the instructor thought I was a clumsy idiot. Finally I figured out the missing piece (you have to pull them onto the tube, not push the tube under them) and now I’m confident with it.

A couple of nights later we started in on backboard extractions. The bitchin part of this one is sinking the board exactly right so it comes up correctly beneath the victim. It takes a surprising amount of strength and agility to do this, because the board is very buoyant, and not stable in the water unless the victim is centered on it just so. I was slightly gratified to see my young concrete-thighed, swim-team companions struggle to get it right. When it came to my turn, the instructor shouted, “Don’t overthink it, Elizabeth!”

That was all it took. I kicked up, put my weight on the board, and zoomed it under the victim and it came to rest perfectly.

I was like, yeah. Get the gestalt of the thing, view it as a whole, do it in one move. Based on my struggles with the tube technique, the instructor knew exactly what to tell me.

After class I pondered the creative process. It’s easy for writers and other creative humans to overthink things, which leads to doubt. Is this the right way to do this? What if it isn’t? Gosh, I don’t know!

So, good advice for us all: Relax, know you can do it, don’t overthink it. Or, since we prefer positive admonitions to negative ones: Underthink it and see what happens.

What do you think? To post, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever. [BTW, I promise I won't keep finding ways to bring up my lifeguard training.]

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  1. Congrats on the test and as for underthinking things, I will spend some time today as I do a mountain of laundry pondering this in relation to a particular problem I've been having with a chapter. Perhaps underthinking it and having the confidence to not second guess myself so much is just what I need to move past the mountain in my way there also. I'll let you know!

  2. Congrats on the test! And thanks for sharing the nugget of wisdom. Sometimes overthinking can become an obstacle to your goals. Going to have to remember this and recite it to myself every time I'm obsessing over a scene, chapter, dialogue, wondering and second guessing why it doesn't feel right. Thanks again.


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