Whiskers is One!
I remember that day vividly because I felt a little like a ship on her maiden voyage across uncharted seas. However, regardless of how uncomfortable the new and vast world wide web felt to me at the time, I marshaled my courage and set sail. Now, a whole year later- with a bevy of blog posts to show for it (93 in total, which can be accessed in the Archives at the bottom of the page)- I have trimmed my sails and found the fair wind.
That’s not to say that I don’t have moments when I wonder if I’ll be able to make a deadline or if I gave a particular post my best. Self-doubt comes with any new territory you take. But, to paraphrase John Wayne, saddle up anyway.
So, a year ago, I saddled up and now I’m riding high, most of the time.
The blog wasn’t the only out of my comfort zone thing I did in the last 365 days. Nope. I did something else. Something so entirely outside of my box that I still marvel at the fact I did it at all.
I took up fighting. Muay Thai, to be exact. Last year in August, I to went to Nashville MMA, where my husband trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, donned my boxing gloves, and started shin conditioning. (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve see the blood and bruises.)
I’ve learned quite a lot in this last year, and, as Oscar Wilde’s Lord Goring (see post here) says, I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself, here are a few things getting out of my comfort zone has done for me.
If your form is off, you’ll hurt yourself. Okay. I didn’t learn this one writing. I learned this one fighting, but the truth of it transcends the the noblest art into everyday application. Form matters.
According to the OED, form refers to the customary or correct method or procedure. Often times, we see this applied in legal matters in such terminology as a matter of form. However, this understanding umbrellas over a great many areas of life. In fighting, there is a set or prescribed methodology. There’s an appropriate stance. This is 1-0-1 here. If your stances is off, you’re not fit for the fight.
In fact, in writing this, I recall a phrase pounded into me in history of architecture: form follows function. It means that the function of a building should be preeminent when designing the form. Personally, I appreciate how Frank Lloyd Wright amended his mentor Louis Sullivan’s words.
Now, to apply that in a broader context. If I want to land a good punch or kick, it is paramount that my form follow the function. My stance must be correct. If my stance is off, my weight is off. If my weight is off, my balance is compromised. If my balance is compromised, then I cannot maintain my equilibrium as I’m sparring. When this happens, I’m vulnerable to a counter attack. Or, as I experienced last week training, I’m susceptible to injury. As Joseph Pulitzer said, accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. He may have been speaking of newspapers, but the truth applies nonetheless.
There is proper form in writing, too. There’s sentence structure, appropriate punctuation, cadence of language, rhythm, alliteration (a personal favorite, regardless of what Miss Gwen says- see post here), and a bevy of other elements. There’s also the appropriate way to construct a novel. (Believe me. I learned this first hand by constructing my novel in all the wrong ways- see all about that here and here.) There’s a method to the madness, as it were. I’ve been studying how to do it all properly. Some of it I have known for ages- grammar, I’m looking at you. Others, I’m learning as I go (novel construction; there’s a double meaning in that) and giving myself grace when I make mistakes.
Point being, if your form is correct at the start, you’re setting yourself up for success. But what’s next?
Bruce Lee famously said:
What’s Bruce talking about? If you said fighting, you’d be right. If you said consistency, you’d be righter. (Horrid grammar, I know, but I like how it sounds.)
Now, I’ve seen what consistency in my training has done for me. When I started, I couldn’t punch very hard and my kicks, well, they were laughable. In fact, I was so self-conscious throwing them in a room full of professional fighters that it took me a while to improve. How did I improve? You’ve guessed it. Consistency.
The shape of my body has changed because of consistency. I’m more muscular because of consistency. I make quite the impact on the 6ft punching bags now because of consistency. I’m better because of consistency.
But I’ve been consistent in something else. I’ve been consistent in my writing. The self-imposed demand to keep a continual schedule of posts at Whiskers on top of my other writing has forced me to grow. I didn’t consider this out of my comfort zone, but looking back, there have been countless times when I didn’t think I would make a deadline or I was stumped about what to write for the next post. Not only have I been consistent with the writing, I’ve been consistent in holding myself accountable to the task I’ve set for myself.
And, here’s the thing. This last year, I did the most writing I have ever done. Not only have there been the blog posts, there’ve been short stories and first drafts for new novels and, in the last couple months, complete re-writes for I’m Glad There Is You, my first novel.
Whiskers has taught me to edit myself, too. When you have a word count limit, and you want to make sure you say everything you want said, you are forced to be meticulously precise about your word choice. This sort of deliberation is essential to master as a writer. In fact, as I am now going through the complete reconstruction of my first novel, I can honestly tell you that when I first penned the pages I’m editing now, I thought they were a thing of beauty. But as Keats clearly tells us, a thing of beauty is a joy forever, and what I’m editing now is most definitely not that sort of eternal jubilation. In fact, Dorothy Parker comes to mind:
But as Gloria Copeland says, In consistency lies the power. In fact, the very etymology of the word consistency points to fully and completely putting yourself in place and standing firm there. I’m a writer. I’m planting myself there and I will not be moved not matter how daunting the tasks at hand may seem. I had decided, in the face of struggles and hardships, I will remain consistent.
And that sort of commitment to consistency will bring one very important thing.
I am confident that this new re-write will be the best yet. I am confident that I can do it. I am confident even in the face of what John Green calls killing my darlings. If there was one thing I feared above all others, it was having to cut out the scenes, dialogue, or prose that I loved. But, through the twice weekly exercise of purveying my ideas to the page as concisely and effectively as possible, I now understand the importance of getting the broad strokes right before adding the finishing touches. If the scene doesn’t work, that’s okay. It can go. There’s more where that came from, and because I’m committed to the best version of my story possible, I can trim the bits that don’t need to be there. Just like consistency at Muay Thai has tightened and toned me, consistency in perfecting my craft has tightened and toned my writing. And I’m stronger in both arenas.
Because I have taken the time to be accurate in my form- in both fighting and writing- and I have consistently practiced and improved, I completely trust that I will be able to accomplish that which I have purposed in my heart.
I don’t know what this new blog year will hold. I do know that I will continue to strive for accuracy in my form. I do know that I will continue to stand firm on the path I’ve set for myself. I do know that I am chasing my dream more confidently than I was 365 days ago. I’m submitting short stories to different publications. I’m intent on finishing I’m Glad There Is You for the purpose of sending it out to agents in the near future. I’m pursuing publication. I’m following my heart.
Last year, I was the little ship about to launch out of harbor because she knew she was purposed for something more. Now I’m all at sea. There may be storms that arise. There may be course corrections. Or delays. Or, every sailor’s favorite, times to wait on the wind. But, I’m committed. I won’t turn back.
As Captain Jack Sparrow would say: