Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Everything I know about writing I learned from Tae Kwon Do

How to execute an awesome kick.

On a regular basis, spend time practicing exercises that will:

  • develop an intuitive sense of balance
  • strengthen the appropriate muscles
  • teach the proper technique.
As you kick, you need to:
  • stand on a solid sole
  • keep your eyes on the target
  • be intentional
  • commit
  • Yell!

How to write an awesome story:

On a regular basis, spend time to:
  • develop an intuitive sense by reading tons
  • strengthen the appropriate muscles by writing tons
  • learn the proper technique by reading and writing and getting feedback from trusted sources
As you write, you need to:
  • stand on a solid sole, rely on the foundation you've laid by reading, observing, writing, analyzing, absorbing;
  • keep your eye on the target, remember why you're writing: whether to understand, to communicate, to express, to resolve, to entertain, to engage;
  • be intentional, don't get sidetracked;
  • commit your time, energy, effort;
  • yell! um....
[photos found at Flikr Common, by kalbara and louveciennes]

My post comparing gardening to writing received some wonderful responses. Perhaps it's because many of us find that most things in life are related and similar: gardening, writing, playing. Observations we make in one area are very likely to be true in other areas of life. When I taught piano, I drove my students batty by constantly comparing playing the piano to brushing and flossing their teeth.

So, as much as I learn from gardening, I also learn from TKD, or making curries. or relating to my children...


Eric said...

It's interesting that being good at something requires being good at basic concepts, and then expanding these for the particular task. Tae Kwon Do (and other martial art styles) requires intense mental focus. Of course you need to be in good physical shape, but if your mind is not focused, you cannot perform nearly as well.

Writing is very similar, in that you really need to be focused mentally on the task at hand. The physical aspects of writing fall in line easily enough once this is accomplished.

Oh, and the yelling (in writing) happens when an agent/editor/publisher says "Yes, I'll take this on."

Nice post.

Yat-Yee said...

Yes, TKD requires intense mental focus. And once the basics are acquired, you could almost say that it's *mainly* mental.

Thanks for bringing that up.

T. Anne said...

Commitment is key. It's the execution of all of the above that will hopefully yeild the fruit of publication one day. Well done.

tanita davis said...

Ditto what Eric said. You could probably hear Sarah all the way to Colorado...

Yat-Yee said...

I did hear Sarah. And then I yelled right back. Sorry folks who live between us.

Cheryl Reif said...

You sum it up beautifully: learn, practice, focus, commit. If your skill lags in any one area, it will keep you from moving forward. For progress, you need balance.

Thanks for a great post!

Yat-Yee said...

Cheryl: I wasn't thinking of balance. How could I not! You're exactly right. Thanks for putting it better than I.

T. Anne: Commitment is totally key. Without it nothing great can be achieved. Even the seeming overnight successes have the support and backing of lots of unseen blood, sweat, and tears that would not have happened if not for commitment.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Such a neat post, Yat-Yee. It's a good comparison. Gotta say I love YELL. Writers can be timid, quiet introverts sometimes, but after we are prepared, we should show our confidence.

Yat-Yee said...

I can attest to how much confidence I gain just by yelling at certain moves. Now the yelling in TKD is supposed to be a way to make sure you exhale during a punch or a kick, but being able to do the very thing we're told not to do all the time: very freeing.

BJW said...

This is so cool. I feel cooler just for reading this. Pardon me, I'm going to go yell now. Thank you.

Yat-Yee said...

Ben: hope you enjoyed yelling! (without surprising Linus too much, or does he like to join in?)

MG Higgins said...

Don't get sidetracked! You mean like with blogging? I have got to become so much more disciplined with my writing.

When I took karate ten thousand years ago, the workouts were gruesome but I felt so invigorated afterwards--like I really had accomplished something. Great analogy to writing.

Kelly H-Y said...

Fabulous post!!!
My piano teacher never compared piano-playing to brushing/flossing teeth ... I'm interested in that one ... did it have to do with doing it every day?! :-)

Yat-Yee said...

Ten thousand years: that Karate must be really effective!

And yes, practicing the piano should be done every day (actually my "rule" was at least 5 days a week, without two consecutive days of no practicing). Leaving your teeth alone for six days and manically brushing and flossing on the seventh doesn't do much good!

BJW said...

He enjoys yelling too. We now yell together when I write. My writing is so much more powerful now too.

"THAT'S ALL!" Ben yells.

Yat-Yee said...