Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fighting Spirit

My brother gave me a piece of advice when I was 12 and playing competitive ping pong. (Yes, "competitive" and "ping pong" can very much go together, so stop that laughing, right now!) He told me all successful competitors possess something called "fighting spirit." I didn't really ask him what he meant but vaguely understood it as being equivalent to "never give up."

His advice took me through some hairy moments. I didn't always win but have amazed myself many times at how much further I could go with that attitude than without.

I was reminded of this advice this past weekend when I was competing in the same ring as a 2nd degree, a 3rd degree, and a 5th degree black belt. I walked into that ring believing that I had a chance. I didn't win in the form portion of the competition but I gave my best performance ever. When sparring came, my brother's advice continued to urge me on and I won my first match, against a 5th degree. 

It can happen, writer friends. Our time frame is long; many of us toil over our craft for years without seeing any tangible rewards but keep that fighting spirit. Something good will come from it. Maybe publication, maybe something else. Like kicking someone much higher rank in the head. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On the other side

Last Saturday, I was at the mufti-school testing for new black belts and current black belts doing their midterms or testing for the next rank. My son was scheduled to do his first-degree midterm and I had some students from the school participating as well. I attended the event prepared to encourage and cheer on the nervous students.

My instructors had other plans for me: I was asked to sit on the panel as a judge. 


I was assured that the head instructors would make the final decisions but they would take into account the scores of the lower-rank judges--there were about 8 or 9 of us. I suspect it was more an exercise for me to acquire experience and for my instructors to make sure my judgements were not out of line. While this was not the first judging assignment I'd had, it felt more stressful, because these were not lower ranks.

But an interesting thing happened. Just having the different responsibilities affected the way I viewed the testers' performances.  It clarified for me, almost immediately,  what the fundamentals are. The things that I had stressed in my own training and those of my students didn't always aligned with what I felt that night.

It was truly eye-opening. It didn't matter if the tester was a child or an adult, a first-degree or a third, the fundamentals remained the same. Proper technique, intention, focus: these must be present in a form for it to look good. 

Then there were the intangibles; talent, inherent affinity for martial arts. The qualities were impossible to pin down, but unmistakable when present. Granted, personal tastes came into play but talking with my fellow judges afterwards assured me that we agreed on all the big picture assessments. 

Which of course made me wonder if I could get myself to think as if I were on the other side of the publishing process, like a agent or acquiring editors.

What are the fundamentals: clarity of writing? Authenticity? Appropriate use of structure? Balance of story-telling elements?

And what about the intangibles? Obviously it is deadly to try to appear talented and gifted by the way we write, but how would I allow who I am to come through?

Still pondering. 

Your thoughts?

Friday, September 16, 2011

What do they think about?

I am taking a break from my YA novel and writing a short story as a possible entry to The Literary Lab's newest anthology. (It is a most unusual prompt: writers create original stories based on one of two fairy tales. So much more creative-making than Stories From The Coasts, or Stories Inspired By My Precocious Children, or The Color of Money: Green or Red. Discuss.) 

Having written so long from the points-of-view of young people, I find I am at  a loss at knowing how adults think. (The answer to your question is no, I am not really an adult, more like a 10-14 year old kid trying to fool people in to thinking my wrinkles commensurate with my wisdom.)

So now my poor thirty-something year-old man is having trouble knowing how and what to think while attending a wedding in a garden.

All right. Vented. Now back to Ryan to see if I can think mature, manly thoughts in his grown-up mind.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fall Resolutions

It has been a few weeks since my Big Weekend where all of my favorite activities collided. I survived!! Yay! When I figure out how to post videos on this blog, I will show snippets of the weekend.

After the big events, It took me a few days just to recover enough to tackle things that I had put aside. As I dealt with each thing, I realized that I have been more or less living in a put-out-fire mode. More often than not, I have been barely able to ahead of things that need to be done. 

Not good. 

So I am going to take a step back and look at how to arrange my living space, my ways of taking care of things, my time-management skills to see if I can create a more organized and efficient life. 

It means paring down and giving up so that I can spend time doing what I love. This probably sounds like an end-of-year thinking, Fall can do that, give me hope that a new beginning can take place. I am going to take this change of season to make some changes that will hopefully give me a calmer outlook and less distracted mind so I can spend more time doing what I love.

As for this blog? I love being part of this community too much to give it up. I will visit y'all when I can and I hope you will check in once in a while as well.

I hope this change of season brings about good changes in your lives.