Take Your Mark: The Trouble With Starts

Take Your Mark

It’s that moment before the dude with the microphone says, “Swimmers take your mark.” You’re there—perching in your Speedo, adjusting your goggles, hoping you don’t slip off the wet polypropylene block. Maybe your dad is yelling, and you wish he’d shut up so you can focus. Or maybe not. Maybe you wish for a cheerleader to distract you from the butterflies working their way up your esophagus. Then the starter says his line, and you lean forward with all the other athletes, trying not to twitch because if you do, the race is over before you begin. The judge behind you in the white shirt and  khaki shorts—the one with his gut hanging over his belt who back in the day was a swimmer with abs like yours—will raise his hand and call you out no matter how fast you swim. So, you balance the threat of disqualification with the desire to push off  faster than your teammate in the next lane. Finally, with the blast of a horn, you’re off. And whether it’s a quick fifty or a limp inducing five-hundred, you’re there. It’s a race.

Why is it so hard to start? Are good starters gifted? The focus. The energy. The self-control. Are those qualities innate? Is there hope for the rest of us? Here’s my starting block.

Rough draft pages

Today is the day I begin the slog through the manuscript. I’m sitting at my desk adjusting my goggles drug store cheaters, wishing for a cheerleader to distract me from the butterflies working their way up my esophagus.

Take your mark.

Get set.

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