I often think of my father when I write or when I pull on boxing gloves. He boxed while he was in the Air Force, and while I’d never hop into the ring, it brings a connection all the same. My father also wanted to be a fiction writer, but the one story he sent off to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine was rejected and he gave up. I have that original typed story and the original rejection letter; the story only needed a little tweaking.
My dad gave up fiction writing, just as he gave up boxing. Who knows what he may have accomplished had he not given up? When he told me he was proud of my writing “success,” I wondered what regrets he had for the demise of his own writing dreams.
There is a perceived weakness that keeps us from realizing our potential, when we don’t recognize that potential and falter in the face of what masks itself as failure.
My first boxing workout session, I punched the hell out of the bag with my right fist, but the left punch was weak and puny. I flailed away yet my left arm made only a few unremarkable contacts with the bag.
It frustrated me, this weakness, but the more I concentrated on the way my left fist felt when it connected to the bag, the more I hated punching with that fist. I mumbled excuses as to why my left jab was pathetic: I’m right-hand dominate; I use my right hand much more often and it’s stronger; maybe there’s a pinched nerve on my left side causing weakness, blah blah blah excuses excuses excuses.
Two days later, I headed to my workout room pissed off about something, put in my earbuds to my techno music, and slid on the gloves. Without thinking about what I was doing or how I was doing it, I just began punching the bejeebus out of that bag—right right right left left left right left right left right right left left left LEFT LEFT LEFT LEFT—POW BIFF BAM!
When I at last stopped, sweat pouring, rage abated, I looked down in surprise at my left gloved fist, amazed at its strength and endurance. It was tingling and burning but it felt great! I felt powerful and strong, and capable. I’d hit the zippity-do-dah-day out of that bag with what two days before masked as a useless left punch but in reality was just as potent—only different. I slid off my gloves and noted the redness and what would become bruises on my knuckles and the small tear on my left hand of the soft portion between my pinky and “ring finger.” I had visual tangible evidence of the force of my punch.
Did my arm/fist grow that much stronger over two days? Course not. What I’d done was stepped up to the bag and, without thinking, just began pummeling it. I allowed myself the instinctual freedom to discover my inner strength that I’d previously blocked myself from recognizing by a perceived weakness.
Isn’t it fascinating what our minds can do? The tricks we allow it to play on us? Sometimes we must outsmart our own Self.
When we approach our work with our fears and wants and needs and with conditions and scads of willy nilly jumbled up over-thinking-it thoughts, we encounter perceived weakness—the words stall, the language comes stilted, the characters blink at us from the page with perplexed expressions. The writing day is flaccid and weak.
Yet, when we put our fingers to the keyboard and let fly whatever pours out of the black hole in our brain, something magical happens. We become stronger writers seemingly overnight—well, dang! We are forgetting all about the circuitous thoughts of: “What if this isn’t any good?” “What if it doesn’t sell?” “What if no one likes it?” “What if a meteor falls on top my stupid head and smushes me to kingdom come and I never finish this and someone sees it before it is finished and it sucks and that’s the legacy I leave behind—a stupid half-finished work that sucks so bad everyone laughs and taunts and points their fingers at it and my ghost Self is humiliated?”
What if instead we allow our beautiful subconscious minds, those deep instinctual strengths, to rise up from a place we cannot mine by over-thinking and over-criticizing. We amble, explore, stumble upon. Go for it. There’s a reason the clichéd advertising phrase Just do it makes sense—because it does work.
As I box, I will gain confidence. I will become even stronger, yes, but I will also become better at the control of my body and what it can do. And as I grow stronger and better and more confident, I’ll critique my form—where I punch, check my stance—I’ll “edit” my workout.
So it is with the writing. I lift up my head and there will be a completed terrible (or not so terrible!) first draft—then the work of editing begins where I critique my form, work on fine-tuning.
Stride into your writing room just as you will the workout room and instead of letting the world in, instead of telling yourself you are weak and can’t do it right, free yourself to Just Do It until you feel strong and confident and know nothing can stop you now from realizing your potential, your dreams, your kickass Self.
If you are just beginning and feel a bit overwhelmed, or need an extra kick in the ass, find a writing/workout partner who motivates you in a power-filled way; join an exercise class/a writers’ group (you’ll soon know if it’s a good fit, and if not don’t hesitate to say buh-bye y’all!); take an instructional writing class/hire a personal trainer, and be sure to do your research well before you shell out any money or sign any contracts. Read books on writing (Author in Progress comes to mind!)/purchase instructional DVDs from trusted sources (I like, for example, Gaiam products, DVDs, and instructors).
Are you ready to discover your hidden strengths and find the power of your punch?