If you look hard enough, you can find life-lessons anywhere and apply them to anything. But sometimes we forget to do that. We pigeonhole Things I Learned from one passion and think they don't apply elsewhere. But my Yoshinkan Aikido sensei is all about living aikido, not just doing aikido. So I figured I'd do a series of short posts on the take-aways that can be seamlessly shoehorned into a writer's world.
We'll start with everyone's favourite: Discipline.
Not smack-on-the-wrist-go-to-your-room type discipline, mind you. Self-discipline and what it takes to start things you're afraid of and finish things that seem impossible.
Aikido is derived from samurai arts, and maintains many of the traditions of strict dojo etiquette. There is a lot of kneeling in seiza, bowing, shutting up, showing you've understood by saying 'osu'. People who lack discipline and are disrespectful of Sensei, other students, the art, or the dojo generally don't last long.
Writing is not dissimilar for the dedicated author. There are traditions to know, behaviors to avoid, shutting up to do, respect to show. All of those require a measure of self-discipline. The effort needed to learn the craft skills. The restraint required when the urge to rant at another author, or a reader, hits. The awareness required to know when you should shut the hell up and listen to what more experienced authors have to say. Mouthing off is easy. Shutting up is not.
It's all stuff that takes self-discipline to learn. (By the way, I'm not saying I'm perfect at it. We're all guilty of wanting validation, and of sounding like idiots sometimes.)
Then there's the daily self-discipline. In aikido, it takes an average of 3 years to get to the first black belt. And that's usually when your sensei smiles indulgently, and says "now you can begin to learn". Because then you're expected to suck up your ego, refine your technique and improve on what you know.
And it's not three years of one class per week. To get from brown to my first black, I trained around 19 classes a week, for a year. My arms were always purple and black with bruises. My ankles were often twisted and swollen (I have hyper-flexible ligaments). I went to sleep picturing techniques and practiced movements at work and at home.
Writing is similar. To complete a novel takes work. Every day, if possible. It takes the discipline to write when you don't feel like it. To write when it's not working. To write when people are telling you to go do something that sounds way more fun in the short term. Most people who start a novel, never finish it.
Just as most people who start in martial arts, never get to black belt.
And, when the novel is done, then the learning begins. Because you must put aside ego and send it off to experienced beta readers (not just your dad or mum). And, later, to an editor. Once you've shelved your resentment at their advice, that's when you start learning how to refine your technique as a writer.
There are many more parallels I could draw in the area of discipline, but I think you get the picture. Now go out and put fingers to keyboard and take the first - or the next - steps towards your writing blackbelt.
I live in Australia - which tells you I have a sense of humour. We're a self-deprecating people, we Aussies. My aim is to, one day, vanish in a blinding flash of enlightenment. In the mean time, I'm doing my best to learn as many