Twisty, Ninja Writers

Have you ever compared writing to one of those twisty, spinning kicks you’ve probably seen martial artists do in the movies?  No?  Let me explain:

A long time ago, when I signed up for my very first martial arts lesson, I had no idea that it would ever stick.  I have never been naturally coordinated in an athletic sense.  I had other reasons for enrolling in martial arts:  it was good exercise, it was a fun activity to do with my daughters, and it just might possibly teach me something useful.  Turns out, it did.

But here was the problem:  the farther along that I advanced through the ranks, the closer I came to having to learn how to do some of those twisty, spinning kicks, just like what you see in the movies.  How on earth would a klutz like me ever do that?

I had a lot to learn, just as we do when we grow as a writer:

1.  First, I had to get rid of my negative thinking and think positive.  Yes, I could do it.

It’s the same in writing.  Anyone who can write one page per day can have a book by the end of the year.

2.  Then I learned to take baby steps, paving the way for more complicated steps later.

As in writing, we don’t usually write a NYT bestseller straight out of the chute (not that it can’t happen, but that’s the exception for a few very gifted artists).

3.  When it came time to try out those complicated steps, well sure, I fell on my butt.  A lot.  The floor was padded in the karate studio, so we didn’t get hurt.  I picked myself up and tried again.

Writers do, too.  Writers keep going, even after getting knocked down by something disastrous, say like 5 rejections in a single day.  We keep going because we have to.

4.  I learned a few tricks and techniques to help me stay upright.  Not that I ever executed those twisty moves with any sort of ninja-like grace, but at least I was doing them.

Writers learn techniques, too.  We spend years learning our craft, trying out new techniques, finding what works so that our stories will flow to their best possible endings.

5.  And then I practiced.  The harder the curriculum became, the more I practiced.

Writers practice, too.  For some, it takes a million words of practice writing before writing something publishable.

The bottom line?  My twisty, spinning kicks were never very effective, but I did them.  They were the best I could do.  It wasn’t a competition.  It was all about achievement.

A multi-published writer friend once asked me why I didn’t submit my work to market more often. “Because it’s not very good now,” I said, “and I can make it better.”  My friend replied:  “Sue, you can always make it better.  But this is the best you can do right now.  So send it out.”

My friend was right.  It’s time to let go of our work when it’s the best we can do.  And then we have to get busy and write the next story.  It will be new and even better.


12 thoughts on “Twisty, Ninja Writers”

  1. Sue, I do martial arts too and it’s taught me a ton about writing. Not just what you describe, but discipline, determination, and positive thinking. Yeah, I’m not good at those twisty, spinny kicks either. But I do them (or at least my version of them). 🙂


  2. Right, Mary, and that’s just the beginning. I never imagined how many great lessons I’d find there. Isn’t that true about anything we do in life?


  3. I studied kung fu for many years. At a primal level, it gave me a feeling of safety and that has translated into all aspects of my life. As it translates to writing, I know nothing I do on the laptop and nothing anyone is going to say to me, like say an agent’s rejection, is going to kill me so there’s nothing to be afraid of. Incidentally, we were taught in kung fu that when we saw one of those spinning kicks, either get inside of it or way far away because it’ll take your head off.


  4. As a reader, I can see the progress that you writers make through your writing journey as I read your books. I can tell if what I am reading is a first book, a later book or a book that you were tired of writing. The personality of each of you comes through in characters, action, and descriptions.

    I know you all get better with practice, but that does not mean that I don’t read “first” novels. In fact, if I “discover” a new author and find that he or she had written other books, I try to find those books as well, especially if it is a series. I like to read about characters who grow, and they should grow as as the author grows.

    The thing I hate is reading books where neither the characters nor the author has grown or changed. In these books, the same old character is just dropped into the same old story line with perhaps a change in the geography or the ancillary characters ,but everything else is the same, a formula.

    So, my author friends, don’t hesitate to turn in what you have written now. When I read it, I will start on the journey with you, but from a different angle. I want to watch you grow as your characters grow. I want you to give me something to anticipate in the next book — bigger, better, more polished, more fun, more you.


  5. Can we change the name of this blog to Ninja Writers? What a great post, Sue. Reminds me of the old (David Carradine old) Kung Fu series where the martial arts taught everyday lessons and Kato was not yet a blip on the horizon (I liked Kato too). Wonderfully done.


  6. Years ago I took Tae Kwon Do. I think I managed to make whatever the highest level yellow belt is. I’m sure I can’t remember anything now, but I did enjoy the sense of self it provided.

    And you’re exactly right, at some point it’s time to let go.


  7. Such a fun post, Sue! Good for you for trying those spin kicks–they look tough! I love how you relate this to writing; it’s empowering to know each project will get better and better. Random side note, this made me think of Susan Spann’s Shinobi Mysteries–you might enjoy them 🙂


  8. LOL, Cynthia!

    Peg, I’m sure you learned a lot through your achievement.

    Kate, I am moving Susan’s books up higher on my TBR pile!


  9. Sue, I love this! I never connected my karate study to my writing, but this parallel you describe makes a lot of sense to me. Certainly the discipline, practice, and picking one’s self up off the mat all apply very nicely. Does this mean that since I earned my black belt (Shaolin Kempo Karate) that I can be a NYT best seller, too?!? 🙂


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