So this week I've been trying to catch up on the myriad of small, important things that have to happen in life. You know the Important but not Urgent things (to quote 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Which led me to remember the scale from Big to Small that happens when you're learning new things.
In martial arts, you start off with gross movements: this foot goes here, this hand goes here, now move this way. No, not that way, this way.
It's like learning to walk all over again - complete with falling down. A lot.
The point is, you start with the big motor control movements. You feel like an elephant. No, more like a completely uncoordinated sloth. Then, as you progress and you get those down into muscle-memory, you stop having to think about them and they just happen. Then your sensei or senior training partner starts adjusting middle-sized things - the angle of your arm, the depth of your stance, where your energy is focussed, the alignment of your whole body.
And you get better at those.
Then they start in on the little things - the angle of your wrist and fingers, the timing of exactly when to grab and turn, the awareness of exactly where your partner's foot is when you throw, recognising the feeling of when a throw or lock is perfectly working. The subtle things that cement power and fluidity into your technique.
The things that make it look effortless to the outsider while your uke (partner) feels like they've been hit by a truck. It takes years and it never, actually ends - the learning. You can always improve.
Writing is similar, but most of us start by just...writing. We often have no teacher to start with, so we just launch straight into a novel or short story. And when the rejections come, if we're determined and resilient, we start looking for why we got knocked back.
We start learning the big things - story structure; how novels in Western literature work. How short stories work. Character arcs. Thematic ideas. It's overwhelming to start with. There are so many things. But you get it eventually and your stories slide into correct structure (mostly) without effort. You learn the middle sized things - scene structure, pacing, character voices, wrangling subplots.
Then you tackle the small-scale stuff - the use of language to manipulate emotion, the structure of sentences, metaphor, poetic devices, purposeful word choices.
All of these things, together (with more, obviously) are what make your finished product appear fluid and powerful; effortlessly beautiful.
It can take years and it never ends. You can always find ways to improve.
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