Scott GeeseyCongratulations to Scott Geesey for winning the October 2021 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

What is the scariest hurdle or fear you’ve overcome (or are working to overcome) in your writing career?

Scott told an intense story about a terrifying childhood experience that reframed his view on certain situations. Enjoy his winning submission:


When some people look at a body of water, they see fun, or the delight of floating, or perhaps just a dip of relief from a rather hot day. The body of water could be the ocean, or a lake, or just a relaxing swimming pool.

When I look at a body of water, I see dread.

When I was small, nearly 10 years old, I almost drowned. A friend invited me to join him for an afternoon at a nearby lake. It was a nice day, and we both waded from the small beach there into the lake. My friend could swim; I had never learned.

As my friend swam around, I walked through the water, going a little deeper and deeper. All was well — until I walked into a hidden hole under the water. I immediately went under — and panicked, thrashing my arms in trying to get back to the surface.

Luckily my friend was close by, and he pulled me up to the surface as I gasped for air. That essentially ended a nice summer day for me.

Decades later when it was my turn to have a family, I had a large aboveground swimming pool built in our rather large backyard. I wanted to make sure my kids learned how to swim so they would enjoy those summertime parties at home. Both my girls actually competed on our local summer swim team.

But for me — taking the plunge, even in a pool that’s only five feet deep, still offers trepidation nearly five decades after my scary afternoon. “Scary” isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Taking a chance, putting yourself out there, is difficult to do. It’s sink or swim — and I don’t want to sink again.

Taking a similar chance on a freelance writing career can seem like sink or swim. I’ve been involved in my current job for the last 22-plus years. While I’m officially an independent contractor for my company, just like a freelance writer, the comfort of that job always being there is tough to overcome.

I’ve been swimming at work for over two decades, but lately it feels more like treading water. Struggling to maintain my current income, getting frustrated dealing with any complaints or having more work thrust upon me without more income to go with it, and then the effects of the pandemic — it’s that thrashing feeling again.

But I’m looking forward to the October AWAI Bootcamp online with a renewed interest in finally learning how to swim in a new direction. The experts, the ideas, the notes and experience, and the hopeful linkups with companies and people interested in hiring a seasoned, experienced human like me to help spread their message — that’s the plan.

It’s about time to take the writing plunge…