Tuesday, November 8, 2016
The Role of Discipline in Writing and Martial Arts
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.