What do an author and an Olympic athlete have in common? They are enduring a constant uphill battle to success. Both the path of a successful Olympic athlete and an author are extremely difficult, regimented and time-consuming. However, author and Olympic swimmer Casey Barrett has been able to achieve both in his 42 years — having both published a novel and competed as a Canadian swimmer in the 1996 Olympics.
Despite the fact that to the naked eye swimming and writing are not similar in any way, Barrett would disagree with this statement. “The discipline and lifestyle of swimming and writing is almost exactly the same,” he wrote in an email interview with The Daily. “So much so that I’m baffled there aren’t more former swimmers who’ve become fiction writers… My ideal writing routine is pretty much identical to my old training schedule: I do my best writing between 5:30a – 7:30a in the morning, and then in the late afternoon between 3:30p.m. – 6p.m. I suppose that’s when my body & mind have always worked best.”
Barrett was serious about swimming for much of his adolescent life, going on to swim in college as well as professionally. He has not swam in over 20 years, having dedicated his life to his family, his writing and his business, Imagine Swimming.
In 2002, Barrett co-founded Imagine Swimming, Inc, a school that sets out to teach thousands of students between the ages of six months and 12 years how to swim at pools across New York. In addition to education, Imagine Swimming oversees a swim team, water polo team and a synchronized swimming team.
On his career path and accomplishments, Barrett claims: “I was restless and ambitious, and seemed to thrive on change. I ‘got into’swimming like most kids — showed a bit of talent in a summer league; a coach or some other parents mentioned year-round teams to my mom & dad; I liked working hard; became hooked on improving; success & ambition fed on themselves … Until it became my entire identity.”
Despite the fact that swimming has been an important part of his identity, he claims that he “moved to NYC to get away from that swimmer’s life.” His life went from swimming to publishing, as he studied print journalism at the University of Southern California and Southern Methodist University. However, through all this, he always knew that he wanted to become a fiction writer on his own terms.
In 2006, with an infatuation for crime fiction, Barrett embarked on a life changing journey — penning his first novel, one of an anticipated series entitled “UNDER WATER.” He began by accepting a private apprenticeship in crime fiction for about five years. To this process he noted, “I read as much as I possibly could in the genre, knowing that was where I was headed. Then, at some point around 2012 or so, I realized that the reading could (and would) go on forever, and that I was ready to write confidently in my chosen ‘field’.” Because of his background in Olympic sports and his previous writing on his blog “Cap & Goggles,” he knew that the plot line began with the sexual abuse that has affected swimming and other Olympic sports.
The path of a previous Olympic athlete and the path of a committed fiction author seem to really intertwine here, creating a wonderful melody between the two subjects. Often, we see Olympic athletes finishing their athletic career to write a memoir, short stories, a biography or other nonfiction works. That being said, it is incredibly refreshing to see a former Olympic athlete creating works of fiction roughly based on his other passion — swimming.
As a very committed individual in two different fields, Barrett has many incredible and special life experiences despite his young age. When asked what advice he has for aspiring Olympic athletes and authors, Barrett replied: “All it takes is committing your entire life to it. If you’re not willing to step off the ledge and lose your mind doing it, don’t bother.”
Barrett will be having an event at Literati bookstore to read and discuss his new novel “Under Water” on Wednesday, January 10th at 7 PM.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorecctly stated that Barrett swam in the 2002 Olympics, he actually swam in the 1996 Olympics.