This is what it looks like when my pups decide I’ve been writing–and thus not paying attention to them–for too long. They aren’t the only creatures in this world to hold such opinions from time to time, but they are the only ones permitted to express it by shoving their noses in my face and panting in my ear.
The last three weeks have been productive on the writing front, though more on the non-fiction side of my projects. (For information on those, check out Wellness for Real Life.) But this last week, I set aside most of my writerly time for fiction. Sand of Bone is, at long and long last, shaping into the story it ought to be.
I am not a full-time writer and, though I daily wish for a little more writing time, I don’t think I want writing to be my sole employment. I love my other work far too much to give it all up.
Teaching karate not only enhances my own training, it permits me to see and partake in a life-changing process for children and adults. I watch children who believe themselves incapable begin to realize they can make changes in their own lives. I watch teens find solid footing while transitioning between child and adult. I watch adults discover their bodies are capable of so much more than they imagined, that they don’t need to move like a twenty-something to be a success, that training to fight is also about learning to play. I get to be witness to, and a part of, the process of trust-building.
The experiences–day to day, and cumulative–inform everything I write. It’s easy to point to a fight scene as evidence of the last dozen years I’ve spent in martial arts. Less easy to see and understand are the character relationships and personalities. While I certainly don’t see my students under life-or-death pressure, I see them responding to fear and shame and shock and embarrassment and anger and frustration, as well as experiencing arrogance and confidence and joy and satisfaction and understanding and enlightenment. I see what happens when those emotions are encountered by people of all ages, who come from all different backgrounds.
If you want to understand a character’s journey, watch a ten-year-old who has never been physical go from being deeply afraid of doing jumping-jacks to smiling with a partner during an intense solid-contact sparring match. Watch a parent learn to let their own children fail. Watch an adult discover that tension doesn’t translate into power, then apply that lesson to their personal relationships. I get to see that sort of thing happen over and over, chapter by chapter, as my students work their way up the ranks. I can’t imagine doing anything more enjoyable with my life. I can’t imagine what my writing would be without it.
Er, actually, I can imagine it. I can read it, in fact, since I recently found some of my writing from twenty years ago. It is so, so bad.
Trust me, Readers. Karate–specifically, teaching karate–has helped shape my writing as surely as the benevolent writers and editors who patiently taught me storycraft. Giving up one would deeply damage the other.