Wednesday, July 15, 2020

GUEST POST: "Writing Underwater, Light-up Pens, and Other Tricks, Tools and Strategies for Busy Writers" by Ann Searle Horowitz

There’s something about swimming laps that gets my creative juices flowing. When I first start the warm-up, my mind is the proverbial blank slate. Then a solution to something I’ve been working on suddenly pops in my head: a title, scene, chapter cliffhanger, character name, or plot twist for my WIP. And for the rest of my swim, I employ every strategy I know (including mnemonics and you name it) NOT to forget my (possibly) brilliant insight.

So while I most certainly do write underwater in my head, I don’t actually write underwater.

I know my day for underwater writing is coming. A friend who also swims has a device that allows him to listen to podcasts and audiobooks underwater. I'm getting close, but I'm not there yet.

Instead, after I swim the first place I go is . . . the front pocket of my swim bag. This is where I keep paper and pen so I can capture any productive thoughts. Like the following logline for my debut fantasy-adventure, Trident, finalized (in my head) in the pool back in 2018:

After Richard Tomlin’s new swim goggles transport him to Atlantis, the 12-year-old is thrust into a war to save the Lost City and the planet.

Not a bad yield for a 50-minute workout.

When not swimming, I’m busy with a hundred other things, like every overscheduled person on the planet these days. I had to be creative and smart about finding time to write my book. Here’s how I got to the finish line with Trident, without getting divorced, losing my day job, or being reported for child neglect (proud mom of three kids, one with special needs).

1. Make daily writing a #1 priority – The only way to tap into your story’s flow, and stay there, is to write every day. It’s okay if you don’t write much, but do make it a habit. Even busy people can find 15 minutes every day to write.

2. Read, read, read some more – Beg, buy or borrow every bestseller, locally popular, and well-reviewed book in your genre you can get your hands on. This is especially important for first-time authors. You’ll learn from and be motivated by the quality of writing. Busy folks can make time to read during breakfast or before bed, or listen to an audiobook on the treadmill.

3. Set deadlines/writing goals – Especially when you’re swamped, it’s easy to push off daily “To Do’s” deemed unnecessary for basic survival, like writing. To hold yourself accountable, set your top writing goal for the coming year and make it challenging (e.g., self-publish novel by December 1st). Now back up and break this big, hairy writing and publishing goal into manageable phases, giving each phase a deadline (e.g., finish chapter 20 by end of July). Be sure to WRITE DOWN your big goal and interim deadlines. And honestly assess your progress every 3 months. In the end, organizing this way compels busy you to focus and work more efficiently.

4. Join a writers group – These groups meet regularly, often monthly. You are expected to bring your WIP to every meeting, forcing steady writing. But it’s not a huge time commitment, plus the encouragement and feedback is invaluable.

5. Listen to conversations – When you’re waiting for your coffee order, spy on the pod of tweens in line in front of you—not in a creepy way, but to eavesdrop the language they use, learn what topics are vital to them, and observe how they interact. It’s research while you wait.

6. Carry a notepad – Keep one in your car, one in your swimming/workout bag, one downstairs in your house and one upstairs, one in your briefcase, one in your lunchbox, one next to your shower, one adjacent to any other place you might sit while in the bathroom, one in your, well, you get the idea. Write your ideas as soon as you have them or they will be lost in the ensuing chaos—an extraordinarily frustrating experience.

(Full notepad-carrying disclosure: I acknowledge my reliance on old-school paper and pen is probably atypical. But I can’t use my phone to take notes after I swim; it would get wet. And phones are not allowed on deck when I work as a swim coach.)

7. Invest in a light-up pen – A genius invention for writers who brainstorm while sleeping, and need to capture ideas ASAP when they jolt awake before sunrise or in the middle of the night. One click activates a mini flashlight that writes, sparing the person sleeping next to you (see divorce reference above) the bright light (bulb) of inspiration. It also circumvents taking nighttime notes via phone which can, in turn, lead to peeking at stressful, non-sleepy work emails.

8. Take a break – When writing feels like a slog, and you’re truly stuck, body movement is proven to enhance creativity. Get up and stretch, take a short walk, grab a shower. It’s worth the extra few minutes. Then sit your butt back down in the chair and write for 15.

This week I had my first pool workout since the COVID-19 quarantine. So let’s circle back to swimming. Better still, think of what makes you feel good—singing, baking, running, meditation, yoga—and build it into your weekly schedule. It may turn out to be your most productive writing time.

Ann Searle Horowitz was a high school All American swimmer, and is a mother of multiples. She admits to knowing far too much about goggles and the twin bond, both of which provided inspiration for Trident. When not working on its sequel, she coaches YMCA swimming, plays team tennis, and hangs out with her husband and three kids at their home just outside of New York City.

As a young reader Ann could often be found in her basement fort, bingeing on Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. Now she can be found online at

Ann is also on FB ( and LinkedIn (

Twelve-year-old Richard Tomlin has almost given up on finding his dad. Instead, he focuses all of his energy on being the youngest swimmer ever on his team to qualify for Junior Olympics.

But everything changes when his new goggles transport him to the Lost City of Atlantis!

Confronting shapeshifters and dark magical forces, Richard channels his inner science geek and the power of positive thinking to stay alive. As he struggles to tame the magic of his goggles, his strong-willed twin, Lucy, finds a way to join him under the sea, and the siblings are thrust into the War of Generations.

To win the war—and save the planet—Richard must embrace his role in an ancient prophecy. Problem is, the prophecy appears to predict his own death. So what’s a warrior to do?

Trident, written for readers age 8-12, and building an unanticipated but welcome adult following, is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on Amazon at

Barnes & Noble at

And on the shelves at Arcade Booksellers in Rye, NY.

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