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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Remaining Determined

Defend your mind with steadfast positive attitude, awareness and sharpen it with ever-growing knowledge and experiences. Be determined and maintain your indomitable will and unbreakable spirit towards your goals for victories. - Bushido Code

This last Sunday, I was recording an episode of Write Pack Radio and was asked what advice I would give to other writers when they don’t feel successful. My answer was the answer I give to anyone who is trying to overcome the obstacles that come their way. It is the same advice I gave myself every time I was told that I couldn’t do something. “Drop out of middle school,” teachers and principals would sagely advice, “forget about high school and college. You won’t make it.” Or as many of the teachers and some guidance counselors advised, “You won’t make it, drop out of high school. It’s no shame.  And college isn’t for everyone.” Or one of my favorites, “My son thinks he’s a writer.”

The advice I gave saw me through those times and many more. It wasn’t something someone said to me. It wasn’t some sage advice given in a speech. What was it? It was something written on a plaque that was hung up above my parent’s bar that they rarely used. (By rarely, I think they used it less than five (5) times as I was growing up). It was a plaque that I stole and put by my old manual typewriter and later my computer where I did my homework and writing. It was a plaque that my step-grandmother had given my father, but I would not learn that information until I was in my thirties.

The plaque had two sentences on it. Just two sentences, stamped between an embossed tree and an acorn. Those two sentences kept me going—in school, in my marital arts, and in my writing—is the same advice I gave to scouts when I was a scoutmaster, or to the kids I got to teach when I was earning my teaching degree, and to countless others. It is simply this: “Don’t worry if you work hard and your rewards are few. Remember, the might oak was once a nut like you.”
This advice often causes laughter and hides a singular grain of truth. Maybe that truth would have been lost on the young child I was when I first read it, if it had not been for the pictures of the tree and acorn. Maybe it wouldn’t have been. The images just burned home the fact that every tree—strong, towering, and lifegiving—started off as a single seed. A nut.

We are surrounded by naysayers. We are surrounded by people who are negative about the world, about themselves, or about you. Some are disappointed. Some feel that dreams are for losers. Some are afraid of others becoming more than they are. Whatever their reason, you have a choice and a duty, especially if you follow the warrior’s path—that is to protect your mind, your soul, and your heart from the negativity. (Or as a friend of mine once wrote, protect your heart from all the daggers others want to stab it with.)

We must remain determined to reach our goals, even if there is nothing else that propels us forward than our own will power. My fellow Black Belts, as am I, are always asked how long does it take a normal person to achieve Black Belt. The answer is that normal people never reach that goal. In the case of writing or any art form, normal people don’t achieve success. So, why let normal people who are negative stop you from reaching your goal—your dream?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Role of Discipline in Writing and Martial Arts

"Discipline is the triumph of wisdom over desire."--Unknown

There is a common question in the martial arts, "How long does it take a normal person to reach Black Belt?" The answer is, "Normal people don't reach Black Belt." This question can be just as easily be asked, "How long does it take a normal writer to be successful?" What would the answer be to this? You guessed it, "Normal writers are not successful."

Why is this the answer to both questions? What possibly could successful writers have in common with Black Belts? Surprisingly, they have two things in common--and both deal with one thing and one thing only. Discipline.

Talent can make someone successful in the martial arts or in writing, but it can only take you so far on its own. Passion is even more important than talent, but it too can only carry you so far down the path of success. In some cases, the two combined can create a facade of success--a dangerous egotistical facade that, when tested will crumble.

What leads the talented or just the determined to reach their goal is discipline. Discipline builds upon talent and can replace talent should natural talent not exist. Discipline builds upon passion, turning a burning fire slowly into a bonfire. Discipline can build upon what the person has, or lack thereof, and create. It is a slow process. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes sweat. It takes blood. It takes tears. It takes us falling and picking ourselves up again.

Discipline is something that those who are on the road to mastery of their craft will claim they don't have enough off. Those who seek success in either the martial art or in the art of the word (or both) know that discipline requires continued commitment and growth--and we don't always see how far we have come as we have our focus on the path we see before us.

Sadly, discipline can also be broken. It was broken for me when I had to take care of an elderly parent during a time they had C-Diff (if you don't know what that is, look it up. It is not fun). My morning and evening writing routine fell apart when I was having my sleep broken. I was woken up to change adult diapers and bed sheets--doing laundry at all hours of the day and night--and never getting more than an hour of sleep at any moment for six (6) months--never knowing if it would ever end. It was only my martial arts practice that kept me going and sane during this time. That discipline kept going, but the other broke upon the rocks of life.

It has been a few years since that moment. I still find myself trying to rebuild that discipline. The truth is that once your discipline has been broken, it is a task of rebuilding, as if from scratch. I must take the broken pieces of that discipline and try to replicate it, knowing it can't be--so I have learned. Instead, I must build the discipline a new, as if I was new to the art of writing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why Ghost Owl Samurai?

Before diving into the spirit and the codes of a warrior, let me be very clear that there is a historical and modern difference between most warriors and the idealism of what it means to be a warrior. If all warriors followed the codes, there never would have been a library of books that have been written over the centuries admonishing warriors on the meaning of the code that they are to follow. 

Furthermore, it should be acknowledged that there is a difference between being a warrior and being a noble warrior—a knight, a dog soldier, a samurai, or any such type of noble warrior in your culture. This is the plan for this blog, to write about following the path of the noble warrior—what it meant in the past, what it means today, and what it may mean tomorrow, especially in a world that outwardly seems to have become jagged and distrustful of such codes and where it is impossible to walk without tripping over someone’s personal agenda.

What is my agenda? It is transparent. The name of this site was carefully chosen. It is made up of three words—Ghost, Owl, and Samurai. The first word is Ghost and is a salute to the movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. In the movie, the character Ghost Dog is a man who pursues the Bushido (the way of the Noble Warrior) as it is explained in Hagakure, written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo.

The second word is Owl. It is a symbol of mystery, piercing the veil of illusion, wisdom, war, art, the bringer of luck, protector from suffering. The owl is my personal symbol and spirit guide.
The third word, Samurai, is to reference following the way of the Bushido.

With this blog, I will be exploring and sharing my life of following the code and the characters I create in the new stories I am writing as I relaunch my author career after having to put it on hiatus.