The Joy of Swimming Book

Tell us a little bit about your book and why you wrote it.

The book is my homage to the role swimming has played in my life -- and the lives of millions of other people. A lot of people think of swimming as a "sport" -- which it is. But it's also so much more than that. Most people, even if they've never been a competitive swimmer, have some relationship to swimming. Whether they like soothing, meditative laps or jumping in a lake as a kid.

Swimming has been a giant, healthy, healing force for my entire life, and I wanted to tell that story, and also tell the story of other swimmers and their relationships with the water, and of swimming culture and history around the world. It's bright and colorful (and every page is illustrated) and has some really amazing and facts in it! 

How has Swimming transformed your life? 

I started swimming on a team when I was eight years old, and fell in love with it. And I also swam competitively as an adult as a Masters Swimmer. In my 30's, I went through a horrible year when a very long term relationship I was in ended in a very hard way. Swimming on this team carried me through the next year of my life as I healed from the experience -- the water was a constant source of comfort for me. it provided me with a routine and a healthy activity to keep me from the depths of sadness.

My teammates were also there for me in a very profound way, expecting me to show up to practice. But really beyond that experience, in my entire life swimming has been a constant source of movement and comfort for me. I am a fairly introverted person so I love the alone time I have when i am swimming -- I work out all of my problems in my head while I'm counting laps. I love how I feel after I've swum most of all! It's a whole body experience in a way that many other activities aren't. 

Do you have any recommendations for someone who has never been a swimmer before but is interested in trying some thing new? 

Swimming is an incredible activity for health & fitness. If you have never swum before, it's really, really important to take an adult swimming lesson. Most cities offer them at recreation departments and there are also private schools out there. This is especially important if you have any fear of the water or are not sure how to swim. If you have experience from swimming as a kid, but just haven't done it in awhile, then it will most likely be like riding a bike! Just get in and start slow -- a few laps at a time and then build as you go. 

What is your process for starting a new project like a book? Do you have routines that you follow or a process for organizing such a large task? 

The first phase is the brainstorm phase. I like to call this the "rainbows and butterflies" phase, because the real work hasn't begun, and it's all about visualizing what the book can become, which is really exciting. Then I organize the brainstorm into a chart or spreadsheet, and dig into research, outreach and development. I take my ideas and figure out how to put them all together in a book through writing and illustration. Then I do the work of research, interviewing, writing and drawing or painting the illustrations. And my studio manager and one freelance writer/editor help me too. I love the whole process, even the editing.

My studio manager (who is an amazing project manager) and I keep several connected spreadsheets in Google docs where we keep track of every element of the book as it's being written and illustrated -- subject matter, sections, interviews, essays, illustrations, and, ultimately, page count! I'm working on another book right now so we are in the thick of it. Keeping all of the moving parts organized keeps us on track to meet my deadlines. And then off it goes to the publisher when it's done and another round of editing happens there until it goes to print months later. 

On the topic of Transformation and Change, is there anything you have discovered recently that has really affected you? 

Recently, I have begun a process of change in my own life after 10 years of intense work to build my illustration practice. I started in the past year to get really burned out. I reached a point of success, sure, but I also found that I was working all the time and beginning to feel really exhausted. I realized the time I used to spend swimming, walking, reading, and being with family and friends, was now spent working -- even on projects I wasn't excited about. I was miserable! 

So, since January, I have taken active steps to get back to living what I call "a good life." This includes things like getting out from behind my computer and into the world again, reading, taking time off, and taking on less work so that I can have a sense of peacefulness again. My friend Kelly told me something that really helped with that: When an opportunity comes into my inbox (and they come frequently) if my reaction isn't "HELL, YES!" the answer is no. Saying no is a form of saying yes to other things in your life. I guess I always knew this in theory, but now I am putting it into practice. 

Recently I read Ariana Huffington's ThriveIt's a great resource for statistics, data, and anecdotes on the importance of what she calls the "Third Metric," which is a redefinition of "success" that includes well-being, wisdom, and wonder. We live in a workaholic, perfection driven society, and it's all about redefining success to include balance, play, connection and space. Reading it really has helped to solidify my perspective that a good life includes rest, relaxation and fun -- and that I have access to those things now if I show up for them. 

Jessica Goldfond